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Edgar Lee Masters' "Lois Spears"

Edgar Lee Masters' classic work, "Spoon River Anthology," offers a fascinating character study of the American mind in the mid-20th-century.

Introduction and Text of "Lois Spears"

Edgar Lee Masters’ "Lois Spears" from the American classic, Spoon River Anthology, surprises readers with its simple purity. The many complaints from those who pursued lives on the seamy side and then tried to blame others for their misfortunes resonant with such volume that encountering a soul such as Lois provides a shock albeit a pleasant one. This poem features only three movements.

The first movement’s opening sounds as if a third party is reporting for Lois, but then it becomes clear that it is Lois speaking in the last parenthetical line. It is also important to note that the information in the parenthetical is deemphasized, though for the world it is of great moment. The second movement finds Lois proclaiming herself "the happiest of women," while the third and final movement reveals the reason for her height of happiness.

Lois Spears

Here lies the body of Lois Spears,
Born Lois Fluke, daughter of Willard Fluke,
Wife of Cyrus Spears,
Mother of Myrtle and Virgil Spears,
Children with clear eyes and sound limbs—
(I was born blind).
I was the happiest of women
As wife, mother and housekeeper,
Caring for my loved ones,
And making my home
A place of order and bounteous hospitality:
For I went about the rooms,
And about the garden
With an instinct as sure as sight,
As though there were eyes in my finger tips—
Glory to God in the highest.

Reading of "Lois Spears"

Commentary

Lois Spears will delight readers who have grown somewhat jaded with the jaded characters offered them in Masters’ Spoon River Anthology.

First Movement: Official Announcement

Here lies the body of Lois Spears,
Born Lois Fluke, daughter of Willard Fluke,
Wife of Cyrus Spears,
Mother of Myrtle and Virgil Spears,
Children with clear eyes and sound limbs—
(I was born blind).

Lois begins her report with a rather official sounding declaration, "Here lies the body of Lois Spears." She continues by identifying herself further with her maiden name, "Lois Fluke," and that she was the "daughter of Willard Fluke." The significance of her maiden name becomes apparent as the reader encounters the strange, delightful character she exhibits. She is, indeed, a fluke of nature, especially when found among the many disingenuous characters of Spoon River.

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Lois further defines her identity by stating that she was the wife of "Cyrus Spears, / Mother of Myrtle and Virgil Spears." Her children, she is no doubt happy to report both had "clear eyes"—they were not born with the same affliction that their mother had endure. Her children furthermore were otherwise healthy with "sound limbs." It is only after Lois has revealed the rudimentary biographical facts that she imparts the crucial information that she "was born blind."

Second Movement: No Need for Pity

I was the happiest of women
As wife, mother and housekeeper,
Caring for my loved ones,
And making my home
A place of order and bounteous hospitality:

Lest her hearers begin to pity her, Lois immediately dispels the notion that she requires any by declaring herself, "the happiest of women." She was so happy because she cared for her "loved ones" and made her home "a place of order and bounteous hospitality." The magnanimity of such a remark offers solace to all who have struggled with positions that they deem beneath them—the lowly housewife, who was also blind, was able to function as the happiest of women simply by nurturing and making a home for her loved ones.

Third Movement: All Glory to God

For I went about the rooms,
And about the garden
With an instinct as sure as sight,
As though there were eyes in my finger tips—
Glory to God in the highest.

In the final movement, Lois proclaims that all glory belongs to "God in the highest." Lois was able to go about the rooms of her home and even grow a garden and claims she did so "with instinct as sure as sight." Lois Spears worked and achieved high accomplishments "[a]s though there were eyes in my finger tips." That Mrs. Spears praises the Divine for her happy fluke of a life lifts her capital to further heights. Mrs. Lois Spears takes her rank as one of the fine, pure souls who inhabited the otherwise carping village of Spoon River.

Edgar Lee Masters - Jack Masters Drawing

Edgar Lee Masters - Jack Masters Drawing

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2017 Linda Sue Grimes

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