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“A Peacock Southeast Flew” a Poem by Anne Birrell Essay

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Updated: Mar 18th, 2020


Relationships among family members vary from one society to another, depending on cultural values and norms. Conflicts normally happen in families, and their root cause is the diversity of relationships that exist in a given family. Hence, “A Peacock Southeast Flew” is a poem that demonstrates the lifestyles of Chinese families in ancient society (Frankel 248).

The poem presents the challenges and ways of life that members of the Chinese families, especially in rural areas, encounter in their lives while trying to remain loyal to the relevant authorities such as parents, relatives, or leaders. Fundamentally, conflicts are ideological differences among individuals, whereas virtues are those values that a given society upholds and believes to be very vital in defining societal morality.

Societies and families are bound to disagree on various issues and ideas. The main cause of the disagreements or conflicts is usually due to the different perspectives, which people hold and believe to be moral. Therefore, the purpose of this essay is to examine how the poem “A Peacock Southeast Flew” establishes the conflicting loyalties that exist in families and societies.

Relation of Parent and Child

According to the poem, the society has some form of organization that creates commitment and responsibilities for each member of the family or society. The poem elaborated this issue when a woman in the poem stated when she was on her teen ages of 13 to 17 years; she already knew how to weave, play the harp, behave well, and follow the etiquette (Frankel 253).

Therefore, the poem exhibits some form of order, loyalty, and hard work in the relationship between parents and children. Moreover, the poem presents the existence of different views and perspectives that parents believe are right and that their children should follow regardless of their wishes.

For instance, we get the impression that the mother of the clerk notes that the clerk’s wife is not compliant, and hence, she wants her to leave because she has gone against the designated behaviors of the society by following her whims.

From the poem, it is apparent that society and families uphold stereotypes. These stereotypes center on the social lives of both men and women. In the poem, the poet uses the characters to demonstrate stereotypes and behaviors that the society upholds. Essentially, the poet shows some form of compromise regarding loyalty commanded by parents on their children.

For instance, the new bride, who is the clerk’s wife, states that she got married when she was only 17 years and had been working for her mistress diligently (Frankel 249). From this precept, the poet brings to the fore the impression that society expects women to work for their mistresses without questioning them.

Furthermore, from the poem, it is clear that society believes in early marriages and expects that women should respect their parents without questioning their opinions regarding the issue of early marriage. According to the poem, parents have the power to choose who their children marry. The poet uses the clerk’s mother to demonstrate the power that parents command over their children on decisions relating to marriage and other social aspects of life.

Relation of Husband and Wife

The poem uses a young woman who is planning to leave her husband and go home because of disagreements that the family encounters. According to the woman, the husband is a busy clerk who leaves home in the morning and returns late. Thus, she complains that her husband is not there for her and that she has to perform many roles, both domestic chores and professional duties, which are very cumbersome (Frankel 250).

The poem uses the woman and her husband to express the existence of conflicts among family members and portray how women are supposed to remain loyal to their husbands. By employing these characters, the poem elucidates the presence of conflicts and different points of view in families and societies.

In such circumstances, the woman believes that she is right and that she has to leave. Therefore, the poem displays the existence of conflict between wives and husbands.

The poem also explains the existing differences among families. In demonstrating the conflict of loyalty, the poet uses the clerk and his wife, who have different opinions concerning the wife’s decision to go back to her parents. From the poem, the clerk is unwilling to let his wife go (Frankel 252). However, the wife decides to go irrespective of the love and respect that she has for her husband, as she is determined to leave.

The poet presents a society where husbands command authority over their wives. The clerk substantiates this phenomenon when she tells his wife to obey him concerning her decision to go home. Another aspect that the poet highlights is the fact that families love one another and appreciate family ties. To elaborate on this concept, the poet uses the clerk and wife who reveal that they do not forget to love each other regardless of their differences.

Mothers-in-law and Daughters-In-law

The scenario that the poet uses to demonstrate conflicting ideas and piety is the conflict between the clerk’s mother and his wife. From the poem, the poet uses these characters to present the conflicts that exist among many families in line with mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law. In the poem, society expects that daughters-in-law respect and obey their mothers-in-law without questioning.

In the poem, the mother-in-law is angry because she claims that her daughter-in-law is obedient and respectful (Frankel 253). This creates an impression that society wants daughters-in-law to obey their mothers-in-law. This is another scenario where the form of obedience from the daughter-in-law conflict with her interests.

Moreover, the poem is practical as it demonstrates the challenges that families and societies face in their daily lives. In expounding further the conflict between mothers-in-law and daughters-in-law, the poet uses the characters in the poem to express this concept. According to the daughter-in-law, she has served and obeyed her mother-in-law, who she calls her mistress, without questioning her or arguing with her (Frankel 251).

This provides a clear expression of the positions and roles of daughters-in-law as the society present among Chinese, especially those in the rural areas. The poem expresses some kind of paradox as the daughter-in-law notes that, although she feels that her mother-in-law burdens her, she does not question or complain about it.

The legitimacy of the Bonds

According to the poem, the poet creates some form of legitimacy. From the poem, society has some regulations that it upholds and deems them as universal norms. The poem presents that it is moral for the children to respect and obey their parents. It also presents the fact that parents have the ultimate power over the social decisions of their children.

The poem displays the society, which upholds and believes that it is legitimate for parents to dictate the lives of their children.

Also, it is evident from the poem that some societies believe that it is right or legal for mothers-in-law to overwork and subject their daughters-in-law to inhumane activities. From the poem, the societies believe in the legitimacy of mothers-in-law who dictate and command respect from their daughters-in-law irrespective of their interests.

The poem presents the legitimacy that the society upholds concerning the relationship between husband and wife. From the poem, it is evident that society believes that the wife should be subject to the husband and she must abide by the principles of her husband without questioning or objecting them. The legitimacy is expressed when the clerk tells her wife to respect him and forego the idea of going back to her parents.

Additionally, when the woman arrives at her parent’s place, the mother quickly asks the reason why she has come back home. The mother asks whether she has wronged her husband. This demonstrates the belief that wives should submit to their husbands and that their husbands are always right. Therefore, from the poem, it is apparent that some societies believe that it is acceptable for a wife to follow the orders of her husband without questioning them.

The Solution

In the poem, the mother-in-law forces his son, who is a clerk to send his wife away since she is no longer behaving in the way she expects. The incident shows how some parents in many societies compromise the happiness of their children by subjecting them to unfair treatment so that they can fulfill their selfish desires. In this scenario, the mother of the clerk wants the daughter-in-law who will respect and work for her without objections.

It is also evident from the poem that members of the society are unwilling to help the clerk and his wife to resolve their conflicts. Conversely, the mother tells the clerk that she will look for another woman of her choice to marry as opposed to his own choice. Eventually, the clerk and his wife committed suicide after their conflicts overwhelmed them.

It is also clear from the poem that society disregards the needs of their children regardless of their ages. From the poem, society looks at children and youth as subjects, which are not rational, and thus require to be dictated in spite of the fact that it is against their will. The poem elucidates this aspect by portraying how parents dictated the clerk and his wife to do things that were not in line with their wishes.

For instance, the clerk spends many moments begging her mother to change her heart and accept his wife, but her mother vehemently refuses and offers to choose another wife for him (Frankel 254). Thus, the poet uses the poem to display the behavior and state of some families and societies. What is evident is the fact that society is not willing to solve the existing conflicts and ideological differences.

In the presentation of the poem, the parents are reluctant to address the problems that the clerk and his wife were going through. Therefore, there was a tragic occurrence rather than a successful resolution. The poem demonstrates a common scenario that takes place in many societies where young men and women do not receive the required attention from their parents and society.

Hence, the poem depicts a tragic ending where the clerk and his wife commit suicide (Frankel 258). The poem is very practical since it presents the need to have societies and families that do not compromise loyalty, piety, and respect of their children and youth.

However, society and families should employ loyalty, piety, and respect from their children to instill legitimate issues such as respect, good morals, and love for one another. Therefore, it is vital for families and societies to encourage and advise their youth and children to avert challenges and consequences like the one presented in the poem.


The essay discusses the conflicting loyalties presented by the poem, “A Peacock Southeast Flew.” The essay uses the relationship between family members like parents, women, youth, and children to demonstrate the existing conflicts of piety in families and society. According to the poem, families, and society uphold some stereotypes, which dictate the views held by each member of the family and society.

From the essay, it is clear that the poem presents these stereotypes and asserts that they may sometimes lead to compromised loyalty and piety. The poem uses the characters of the family to elaborate on the scenarios where loyalty and piety become questionable, as those deemed as legitimate and powerful in the society overrule the happiness of those who are loyal.

Works Cited

Frankel, Hans, ed. The Chinese Ballad “Southeast Fly the Peacocks.” 2001. Web.

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