Imagined More than Woman: ATrainor

Aphra Behn’s “Clarinda,” to me, is a struggle. All the speaker really knows is what she wants– the “fair Maid.” But society and her own conflicting values lead to numerous misgivings, and the poem seems to be deliberately convoluted. I think this is because Behn wants us to be confused, to not know who she is talking about, who the speaker really wants to be with, or who she even is. There’s a disconnect between imagination and reality, where men can be women and women can be men. But reality seeps in, with convention always tugging at the heels of the poem.

I wanted to represent this struggle through the body language in my photo. It’s fairly bare except for the people, because that’s what the poem’s focus is on. From left to right we have Clarinda, the speaker, and a real Youth. Both the imagined and the real Youth are focusing on the speaker, but it’s more acceptable for the real Youth to have his hand on the speaker’s leg—and so, Clarinda is left with her hand waiting between her and the speaker. The real Youth is confident in his status; he is ignorant to what’s happening around him, and demanding the speaker’s attention. The speaker is facing the real Youth, but her mouth is covered, which denotes a sort of secrecy, or something not said. Her hand is straying towards Clarinda’s, and her legs are crossed in Clarinda’s direction, showing how, while she knows she should be listening to the real Youth, she can’t help but betray her interest in Clarinda.

I also tried to show things through the clothing of the characters. The real and the imagined Youth are not so different in their clothing: they both have collared shirts and jeans on. But while everyone is wearing black and blue, Clarinda and the real Youth are the polarizing factors, with the speaker caught in the middle. I had trouble deciding who should wear flowers, but ultimately decided on the speaker. It seems like, in such a confused poem, the speaker might see herself as the snake underneath the flowers more than anything else.

I hope I don’t start any rumours with this picture—I promise I’m not having a secret affair with my roommate (who so kindly obliged in my odd picture-taking request).


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