The speaker can be characterized as a woman seeking to be understood. She chose to present her desire figuratively. Women who seek attention often dress in revealing clothing. Hence, she wants that red dress that is cheap and leaves nothing to the imagination. By wearing the red dress she desires to be noticed. Arguably, the woman may be protesting the lack of attention and understanding from her partner. The speaker is not a prostitute since are she craves is a dress that represents the societal stereotypes. If she was a prostitute, she already would have such a dress. It is noted that she is demanding the dress from her partner an engagement that suggests that she needs her partner to see her in the stereotypical role of women.
The quoted stanza does not mean that the woman is selfish; rather she is building a case for her desire.
- I want that red dress bad.
- I want it to confirm
- Your worst fears about me,
- To show you how little I care about you
- Or anything except what
She is metaphorically expressing her neglected status which has reduced her to the point of desperation. She declares that she does not care about anything except the flimsy red dress that symbolizes womanhood and sexuality. The phrase “your worst fears” means that in her desperation she imagines or sort of things including the suspicion that she is ready to do anything to gain the recognition and understanding that she craves.
The colors are symbolic. The red color is often seen as a dominant color representing boldness and excitement, energy, passion, and love. The black color is used to symbolize power, mystery, formality, and elegance. The white color on the other hand, is used to represent purity, heaven, and beauty. The use of the colors literature is to evoke emotional responses while creating the desired atmosphere. If for instance, the speaker was asking for a white dress, the message would have been different. The symbolism would be representing her desire for purity, love, and loyalty.
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The question posed by the title is answered figuratively with the red dress symbolizing the desire to be appreciated as the sexual, independent, and passionate being. Women seek to be understood for what they are and not to be objectified as stereotypes are wont to do.
- I want it too tight; I want to wear it
- Until someone tears it off me
- I want it sleeveless and backless,
- This dress, so no one has to guess
By this image, Addonizio is referring to the type of stereotypes that might put on such a dress. Addonizio also presents to us a clear image of what she will do in the red dress. For example, she tells the reader that she’ll walk past the Guerra brothers, hardware store and Thrifty’s. She also adds that she’ll do it like she’s the only woman o the globe and that she can have her pick. Vividly, Addonizo is working with the image that is usually related with today’s woman. The poem looks into the risk of being stereotyped that women are faced with. By employing metaphors and imagery, Kim Addonizio conveyed the message that women want to be understood. Via her honest though harsh style, Addonizio focuses on the melancholic stereotype that must be endured by women.