Prostitution and Death in Taslirna Nasrin’s Things Cheaply Had and William Blake’s London
Prostitution is a killer. It kills a woman’s sense of self-respect as well as other people’s respect for her. It kills marriages and breaks up families; and sometimes it evens kills people. Taslirna Nasrin’s poem “Things Cheaply Had” and William Blake’s poem “London” illustrate how prostitution will eventually lead to death; a horrible silence. Nasrin’s poem illustrates how vanity can turn women into lowly and disrespected prostitutes.
“If the y get a few bars of soap to scrub their skin . . .
They become so submissive that they scoop out
chunks of their flesh
to be sold in the flea market twice a week” (Nasrin 1, 4, 6-8). In this passage we are given a rather violent and painful image of prostitution as scooping out chunks of flesh to be sold. We are told that women will do this for something as meager and cheap as a few bars of soap. They’ll scoop out their flesh like someone might scoop out beans or rice from a bin to weight and purchase making human flesh worth next to nothing. “In the market nothing can be had as cheap as women
Even the mangy cur of the house barks now and then
and over the mouths of women cheaply had
there’s a lock” (Nasrin 1).
Here we are shown that these women are beneath all the goods in the market place as they can be bought by such goods. They are disrespected and viewed as being lower than the dog in the house. The dog will at least bark but the women do not speak at all. “A golden lock” (Nasrin 16) suggests even their silence can be bought. “If they get a jewel for their nose / they lick feet for seventy days or so” (Nasrin 9-10). Feet are considered to be very dirty and therefore licking feet is an act of disgrace and very damaging to a woman’s sense of self-respect. In this poem prostitutes themselves aren’t worth very much. Blake’s poem on the other hand illustrates the harlot or prostitute as having higher...
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