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R. S. Gwynn's "Snow White and the Seven Deadly Sins"

Updated on October 9, 2017
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After I fell in love with Walter de la Mare's "Silver" in Mrs. Edna Pickett's sophomore English class, circa 1962, poetry became my passion.

R. S. Gwynn

Source

Introduction and Text of Poem, "Snow White and the Seven Deadly Sins"

R. S. Gwynn's conflation of several sources—the Snow White story, the seven deadlies, biblical allusion, along with a tortured take on Catholicism—purports to portray a dysfunctional marriage.

Placing all seven deadly sins in one husband, the poem lampoons the judgment of a wife whose sense of duty becomes perverted by tolerating the uncouth behavior of her husband.

R.S. Gwynn’s “Snow White and the Seven Deadly Sins” consists of ten stanzas, each with the rime-scheme, ABAB. The theme is good vs. evil.

(Please note: The incorrect spelling, "rhyme," was erroneously introduced into English by Dr. Samuel Johnson. For my explanation for using only the correct form, please see "Rime vs Rhyme: An Unfortunate Error.")

Snow White and the Seven Deadly Sins

Good Catholic girl, she didn't mind the cleaning.
All of her household chores, at first, were small
And hardly labors one could find demeaning.
One's duty was one's refuge, after all.

And if she had her doubts at certain moments
And once confessed them to the Father, she
Was instantly referred to texts in Romans
And Peter's First Epistle, chapter III.

Years passed. More sinful every day, the Seven
Breakfasted, grabbed their pitchforks, donned their horns,
And sped to contravene the hopes of heaven,
Sowing the neighbors' lawns with tares and thorns.

She set to work. Pride's wall of looking glasses
Ogled her dimly, smeared with prints of lips;
Lust's magazines lay strewn, bare tits and asses
Weighted by his "devices" - chains, cuffs, whips.

Gluttony's empties covered half the table,
Mingling with Avarice's cards and chips,
And she'd been told to sew a Bill Blass label
Inside the blazer Envy'd bought at Gyps.

She knelt to the cold master bathroom floor as
If a petitioner before the Pope,
Retrieving several pairs of Sloths's soiled drawers,
A sweat-sock and a cake of hairy soap.

Then, as she wiped the Windex from the mirror
She noticed, and the vision made her cry,
How much she'd grayed and paled, and how much clearer
Festered the bruise of Wrath beneath her eye.

"No poisoned apple needed for this Princess,"
She murmured making X's with her thumb.
A car door slammed, bringing her to her senses:
Ho-hum. Ho-hum. It's home from work we come.

And she was out the window in a second,
In time to see a Handsome Prince, of course,
Who, in spying her distressed condition, beckoned
For her to mount (What else?) his snow-white horse.

Impeccably he spoke. His smile was glowing.
So debonair! So charming! And so Male.
She took a step, reversed and without slowing
Beat it to St. Anne's where she took the veil.

Reading of "Snow White and the Seven Deadly Sins"

Commentary

First Stanza: “Good Catholic girl, she didn't mind the cleaning”

The speaker describes the woman as a “Good Catholic girl.” At the outset of her marriage, she did not revolt against “cleaning” and other “household chores,” because she believed the precept that clean is divine, and “One’s duty [is] one’s refuge.”

Second Stanza: “And if she had her doubts at certain moments”

At times, this woman professed doubts about her marriage, but her priest suggested she read “Romans / And Peter’s First Epistle, chapter III.” Romans explicitly points out the commandments and makes it clear that doing good is better than doing evil, while Peter’s chapter three further supports that position, “For it is better, if the will of God be so, that ye suffer for well doing, than for evil doing.”

Third Stanza: “Years passed. More sinful every day, the Seven"

The woman’s life continues in the same vain as “years passed”; all the while the husband’s behavior grows “more sinful every day.” The speaker describes his activities; [he] “Breakfasted, grabbed [his] pitchfork] . . . sped to contravene the hopes of heaven.” The husband’s job is not identified, but it is clear that he is not a productive member of society.

Fourth Stanza: “She set to work. Pride's wall of looking glasses

In the fourth stanza, the speaker begins to address each sin, beginning with “pride,” who has a “wall of looking glasses // smeared with prints of lips.” The sin of pride “ogle[s] [the woman] dimly.” Magazines of “lust” portray unsavory sexual practices. Metaphorically and allegorically, the speaker dramatizes the husband as a vain, sex obsessed individual. And the wife has to clean up after his mess.

Fifth Stanza: “Gluttony's empties covered half the table”

The husband’s deadly sin of “gluttony” leaves empty food/beverage containers strewn over the table along with the signs of his “avarice,” revealed by “card and chips.” His “envy” is on display; he had her sew “a Bill Blass label” into his inexpensive blazer.

Sixth Stanza: “She knelt to the cold master bathroom floor as”

In the sixth stanza, the husband’s sin of “sloth” is dramatized as the wife has to kneel to pull his “soiled drawers, / A sweat-sock and cake of hairy soap” from the “cold master bathroom floor.”

Seventh Stanza: “Then, as she wiped the Windex from the mirror”

Cleaning the bathroom mirror with “Windex,” she notices how gray her hair has become and that she is looking rather gaunt. Most significantly, she sees is the result of physical abuse, “the bruise of Wrath beneath her eye.” Not only does her husband defile their home with his disgusting behavior, he also beats the very woman who has dedicated her life to cleaning up his filth.

Eighth Stanza: "No poisoned apple needed for this Princess"

The woman finally wakes up from her nightmare, claiming that she did not need a poisoned apple to put her into a death-sleep. She marks “X’s” on the mirror with her thumb, signaling that this is the end. She will no longer live under the spell of the “seven deadly sins.” Then she hears her husband come home.

Ninth Stanza: “And she was out the window in a second”

She has made up her mind to put an end to her worthless marriage: “she [is] out the window in a second.” Her husband tries to assuage her “distressed condition,” promising that he will be her “Handsome Prince,” on a “snow-white horse.”

Tenth Stanza: “Impeccably he spoke. His smile was glowing”

Like the typical abusive husband who promises to change and never do those bad things again, “Impeccable he spoke. His smile was glowing.” But she had been through enough. Living with a man who embodied all of the “seven deadly sins” had convinced her that the best path to take from thence on was to “beat it to St. Anne’s where she took the veil.” She decides to follow the advice from Peter, “Let him eschew evil, and do good; let him seek peace, and ensue it.”

© 2016 Linda Sue Grimes

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