Literature Annotations

Auden, W. H.
Miss Gee

Genre Poem
KeywordsCancer, Disease and Health, Women's Health
SummaryMiss Gee wants to be a good girl and keep "her clothes buttoned up to her neck." Time goes by. Finally, she gets on her bicycle and goes to the doctor about "a pain inside me." The doctor diagnoses cancer. Later, over dinner, he comments to his wife that "cancer's a funny thing" that attacks "childless women" and "men when they retire."
CommentaryThis 28-line, seven-quatrain poem illustrates the damaging way in which illness can function as a cultural metaphor (see Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor, annotated in this database). Cancer is a disease of repressed emotion and life-energy. Childless women have suppressed the life-energy, thereby becoming useless and cancer-prone. Similarly, retired men have lost the meaning (i.e. male self-identity as occupation) in their lives and are, therefore, vulnerable to the same fate.
SourceCollected Poems
PublisherRandom House
EditorsEdward Mendelson
Place PublishedNew York
Annotated by Coulehan, Jack
Date of Entry 01/02/96
Last Revised 09/26/96