Home Is Where the Heart Is

the same photo in my course book


 Home Is Where the Heart Is[A1] 

Tanisha Ware

ENG / 125

Saturday, September 29, 2012

O. A., Ph.D[A2] .

Somewhere along the way, a negative connotation was attached with the responsibilities of a classically defined female gender role[A3] . Women maintained[A4]  the children and the home while men provided structural[A5]  and financial support to his family. Julia Alvarez makes it clear that the work of the woman – the “Woman’s Work” is an art and it is to be recognized and respected.  Even as a young girl, employed to assist rather than allowed to play, our narrator understood the effort and precision as she watched her mother meticulously prepare their home, time and again. The author’s words fill the girl with an overwhelming sense of pride and point out that the keeping of the home, is “nothing less than art” (Alvarez, 1996[A6] ).

Managing a home is hard work.  There was a time when it was considered woman’s work, meaning it held less respect (to some) than the responsibilities held by men.  House-husbands were a concept yet-to-be [A7] discovered and the place for a woman was in her home.  Respectfully so, the narrator of Julie Alvarez’s “Woman’s Work” values the efforts of her mother and shares a sense of gratification at a job well done.  The narrator begins with her mother’s advice to “keep house as if the address were your heart” (Alvarez, 1996). As she describes their planned route through the house, the reader can feel the child’s frustration with the sigh she expresses at hearing her “friends outside” (Alvarez, 1996).  She expresses her frustration with having to sweep until her mother was satisfied.  But she still refers to it as art[A8] .

If it is unclear to the reader what the narrator is feeling, in line nine she simply sates that she felt “like a prisoner in her housebound heart”.  Even still, her complaint seems warm and hardly worthy of “prisoner”.  The narrator appears to be complaining but soon refers to herself as “[her] masterpiece” and “smart” (Alvarez, 1996).  The narrator, the daughter – shows a positive outlook on her mother’s woman’s work because she knows it for what it is. Difficult.  She not only respects the woman, she also respects her work.  The narrator goes on to express the direction and advice given by her mother but proclaims that she “did not want to be her counterpart” (Alvarez, 1996)! Having “struck out” (Alvarez, 1996) the narrator “became her mother’s child” (Alvarez, 1996) and even though she tried to do something else, be something else… she returned to the familiar territory of art[A9] .

The author uses end rhyming stanzas to set the tone. The word “heart” or “art” is present in every stanza and both are present in the final four lines.  This follows with the theme that home is where the heart is.  The narrator and author seem to be one in [A10] the same.  She writes from a familiar first person point of view that pulls the reader directly into her shoes.  [A11] Or the shoes she has created. 

The author pulls the reader in with short, but vivid, descriptions of her mother’s hard work.  She begins with the bathroom tiles.  The two words alone bring to mind the scrubbing and cleaning of grout and fixtures, all requiring a different substance and tool to get the job done.  A subtle fact not mentioned or credited when discussing a woman’s work. 

The narrator’s mention of cleaning the upstairs before the down is also remnant of a first person perspective.  Most people don’t put much thought to the cleaning[A12]  process but this woman has specific directions.  The sigh that is mentioned can be heard by the reader. And feel the humidity of the exhale and the vibration of the low, guttural half-sigh, half-growl that would escape the mouth of a child that would be listening to their friends instead of interacting with them.  [A13] 

The reader is almost apt to believe that the child narrator is inexplicably sad and oppressed by the cleanliness of her mother, but each line reveals love, adoration and respect.  The author shares a daughter’s perspective of the “hard art”, the “art”, the “art” (Alvarez, 1996).  The author and narrator are amazed.  The narrator would love to deny her love for the clean but matures only to find her own form of heart-art. 

There have been and always will be gender roles and gender specific expectations.  The lines between these things has[A14]  merged and diluted over time.  Some lines don’t [A15] need to merge or dilute, some lines need to be recognized and respected for exactly what they are.  It might look like simple housekeeping to you[A16] , but to the narrator of Julia Alvarez’s “Woman’s Work”, it’s hard art.  For the young female narrator, the guidelines provided for her mother serve their purpose in the years to come.  The author eludes[A17]  to the fact that she may be the narrator and that her mother’s art came from her heart in the form of a clean home.  The narrator’s art is the art of the heart and is most likely the words in this poem.    [A18] 



Barnet, S., Burto, W., & Cain, W. E. (2011). Literature for Composition (9th ed.). New York, New York: Longman.

 [A1]This is a good title that suggests the focus of your essay.   Thank you.

 [A2]Hi Tanisha, the title page meets the APA guidelines.  Good job.

 [A3]This is an important remark.  Consider how you may rephrase it with fewer words for greater clarity.  Consider for example, “In the past, the classically defined role of women in the home earned little recognition/respect…”

 [A4]‘looked after’ or ‘took care of the…’

 [A5]How may you clarify the use of this word in this context?

 [A6]Great introductory paragraph.  It states the central thought of the poem and your own point of view.  Good job, Tanisha.

 [A7]Rephrase for clarity.  Consider, ‘The concept of ‘house-husband’ was …’

 [A8]This is an important comment.  The narrator appears to be torn between the two apparently contradictory roles – social and personal roles!

 [A9]You demonstrate a great sense of analysis, Tanisha.  I love your interpretation of the narrator’s push and pull dilemma.


 [A11]This is a thoughtful interpretation of the poet’s use of the first person narrative!  Thank you.

 [A12]Insert, ‘house cleaning’

 [A13]This is a perceptive interpretation of the poet’s use of imagery to convey her ideas about a woman’s work that was previously overlooked or ignored.


 [A15]Try to avoid the use of contractions in an academic paper unless when they are absolutely necessary.

 [A16]Remove.  It is not desirable to use conversational tone in an academic paper.

 [A17]How may you explain the use of this word in this context?  Consider ‘alludes’

 [A18]You are trying to make an important point here.  How may you rephrase it for clarity?

This is a very good essay.  It demonstrates a good understanding of the main points of the poem and your interpretation of the poet’s central thought is credible.  The paper has a definite structure and it is focused on the celebration of the woman’s work as an art.

You discussion on the poet’s use of literary devices to express her thoughts is good.  The use of quotations from the poem to support your views is remarkable.

The paper is well laid out. The introduction is comprehensive and previews the main points of the essay.  The conclusion is logical and flows from the introduction and body of the paper.

Your writing skill is outstanding and the formatting style is generally consistent with the APA guidelines.

Try to proofread your essay to address minor issues of word choice and ambiguity.  Good job.

Feedback from Instructor (Published: Sat 09/29/2012 01:51 PM MST)

Earned Points: 9.7/10
Hi Tanisha, thank you for your paper on Close Reading of a Poem. I enjoyed reading it. I have provided more specific feedback in the paper and grading rubric. Please review my comments for details and let me know if you have any questions. Great job!

Additional Comments:

Hi Tanisha, your paper on “Close Reading of a Poem” covered the basic requirements for this assignment.

You selected  “Woman’s Work” by Julia Alvarez from our reading list as required, and you also met the word count requirement.

Your paper demonstrates a good understanding of the central thought of the poem and a grasp of the writer’s purpose and strategies.

Your analysis of the narrator’s dilemma and ultimate acceptance of the value of ‘woman’s work’ is thoughtful and credible.

Additional Comments:

The paper has a definite structure. The introduction previews the main points of the poem and defines its central idea or theme.

The conclusion is logical and  flows from the introduction, giving the paper its sense of unity and coherence.

Continue to maintain the professional tone of your essay by avoiding the use of conversational words and expressions.

Additional Comments:

The paper is well laid out. Your writing skill is outstanding, and the sentences are generally clear.

Try to proofread your essay to address minor issues of word choice, punctuation and ambiguity.

page 1 of my handwritten notes

page 2 – graphic organizer and all

3 thoughts on “Home Is Where the Heart Is

  1. I once worked at a small advertising agency and frequently had to reproduce the same poster or promotional piece, often dozens of times. My boss advised me to ignore the repetition and treat each one as a separate work of art. I’ve never forgotten that, and it’s one of the reasons I can relate completely with the subject of this poem. Great job, Tanisha.

  2. I hope you’ve included the figures of speech, complete rhyme scheme and meter of the poem. I’ll have to report about this next week. Anyways, Thank you so much for the information. gradesaver! 🙂

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