I Was My Own Route by Julia de Burgos || Summary, Notes, Exercises || Grade XII Notes


I Was My Own Route

Julia de Burgos


About the Author: Julia de Burgos

Julia de Burgos (1914-1953) was born in Carolina, Puerto Rico, and came to New York, where she worked as a journalist, and then to Cuba, where she continued her education at the University of Havana. De Burgos, a freedom fighter, returned to New York after two years in Cuba to work as the art and cultural editor for the progressive journal Pueblos Hispanos. De Burgos’ poems deal with issues of women’s liberation and social justice, and they predate the Nuyorican poetry movement. In her poem “I was my Own Route,” de Burgos, a predecessor to contemporary Latina/o writers, portrays how women are shackled by patriarchal ideals from the past. As a result, de Burgos encourages women to separate themselves from the past to find their identity within.



The speaker Julia de Burgos, a radical feminist, challenges the masculine concept of defining a female’s existence and journey via traditional paths in the poem “I Was My Own Route.” She links male mentality to gender inequality and male prejudices towards women.
Women’s own freedom and liberation are portrayed in this poem. She also rejects the masculine ideology of deciding a woman’s life and journey along traditional paths as a result of this. She connects masculine thinking to gender inequity and men’s prejudices against women. She’s looking for a new path to take on her own journey, one that she can choose. She supports women’s rights and freedom. This poem demonstrates that a man and a woman are equally important. As a result, her life should not be influenced by the ideas of others, as the law guarantees females the same fundamental rights as men.
Above all, the poem teaches us the moral that men and women are both members of the same society, and they both require freedom, liberty, independence, and other aspects of life, and they should be permitted to pursue their own paths rather than those dictated by patriarchal society.


Poem Analysis:

Stanza 1

I wanted to be like men wanted me to be:

an attempt at life;

a game of hide and seek with my being.

But I was made of nows,

and my feet level on the promissory earth

would not accept walking backwards

and went forward, forward,

mocking the ashes to reach the kiss

of new paths.

In the first stanza, the speaker emphasizes the differences between what was expected of her and who she was. She rejects patriarchal thinking and wishes to build her own path rather than participate in the customary game of hide and seek. She discusses her own personal independence as well as women’s empowerment through this. She’s looking for new ways to manage her journey, rather than following the road that has been established or set by masculine members of society. She mocks these paths and chooses a new road that she prefers. As expressed by Julia de Burgos, this poem makes an agenda of gender discrimination as a response to the social inequalities that existed at the time.

Stanza 2

At each advancing step on my route forward

my back was ripped by the desperate flapping wings

of the old guard.

The speaker encounters several male-made social conventions as hurdles in her freshly forwarded path in the second stanza, but she overcomes all limits and old determined feet. She describes how, with her shattered heart and old blogs, she was thrown back to view the old traditional way.

Stanza 3

But the branch was unpinned forever,

and at each new whiplash my look

separated more and more and more from the distant

familiar horizons;

and my face took the expansion that came from within,

the defined expression that hinted at a feeling

of intimate liberation;

a feeling that surged

from the balance between my life

and the truth of the kiss of the new paths.

The speaker suffers a lot in the third stanza with a sense of liberation to balance her own life to continue along the new and true path of life. She wishes to travel far into the horizons and experience all of the liberations that the male members of society have already experienced. As a result, she kisses multiple different pathways to experience various levels of freedom and joy in life.

Stanza 4

Already my course now set in the present,

I felt myself a blossom of all the soils of the earth,

of the soils without history,

of the soils without a future,

of the soil always soil without edges

of all the men and all the epochs.

The persona finds herself in an already predetermined situation in the fourth stanza, where there is no history, future, edges, or anything else besides the world and the limitations of men and females under the shadows of males. Patriarchy has erected various barriers for women, confining them to the four walls of their homes. Her current suffering is surrounded by several difficulties and patriarchal society’s norms. It depicts a world in which women appear to have no hope.

Stanza 5

And I was all in me as was life in me…

I wanted to be like men wanted me to be:

An attempt at life;

With the phrase “And I was all in me as was life in me…” in the fifth stanza, the speaker seeks to convey the feeling of strength that comes with choosing one’s own path. It was a great opportunity for the speaker to meet and connect with her actual selves. Her life is now completely comprehended and self-sufficient.

Stanza 6

a game of hide and seek with my being.

But I was made of nows;

when the heralds announced meat the regal parade of the old guard,

the desire to follow men warped in me,

and the homage was left waiting for me.

The speaker reveals to her what she was and what the male members of the community desired her to be in the sixth stanza. Then she goes on to state that she was everything in herself because she tries so hard to be who she wants to be. Returning to the first stanza, the speaker reveals her own attempt to be different from what patriarchal society desired. She is quite depressed about the dark future ahead of her, and she is determined to overcome the difficult conditions in her life.


Moral/Theme of the story

The moral of the poem teaches us, women and men both are human beings. They must get equality in society. Women are not birds who live in the net, they are humans with an independent will. A woman also has the right to take part in every sector in which a man gets. And the other moral of the poem; the women detach themselves from the past so as to locate their identity within.


a)    Why did the speaker try to be the way men wanted her to be? 

The speaker tried to be the way men wanted her to be because she wanted to see what the male expected her to be like and how they will behave due to their hegemonic male concept. 

b)    What do you understand by her feet 'would not accept walking backwards'? 

By her feet 'would not accept walking backward! We mean that she was not ready to accept inferior concept of females by males rather she wanted to race like male with equal food of the ultimate goal of liberation and equality.

c)    Who are the old guards? Why did they grow desperate? 

The old guards are the traditional people preoccupied with patriarchal concept. These people grow desperate as they find the poetess uplifting the life styles of poor people and is working for the emancipation of the people. 

d)    How did the speaker have ‘a feeling of intimate liberation'? 

The speaker had a feeling of intimate liberation' as she has crossed the barrier of patriarchal society and kissed a new path of liberation rejecting the old one predetermined by men. 

e)    Why did the desire to follow men warp in her? 

The desire to follow men wraps in her because of patriarchal society and its norms prevailed in the society. She wanted to feel liberation and pleasure but she is forced to follow traditional concepts and ideas predetermined by men.


a)    What does the speaker mean when she says she was playing a game of hide and seek with her being'?

When the speaker says she was playing a game of hide and seek with her being in the 3rd line of first stanza and once more at the end of the poem, she means to show her rebellious nature and rejection of male ideology which limit female in the surrounding of four wall. It further means to state that she needs liberation to escape from gender stereotype image of female and choose the route of her own choice. 

b)    Why, in your view, was her back ripped by the old guards as she was advancing forward? 

The old guards put many obstacles, traditions, norms, and threats of patriarchal ideology as she was advancing forward as a result her back was ripped. Here, the old guards refer to old traditions, cultures, norms and patriarchy determined values but she requires liberation and race in a journey of freedom. Thus, restrictions, hindrances, obstacles, difficulties and blockades created by the old guards in the society make her back ripped and suffered a lot.

c)    What, according to the speaker, did it feel like to be free? 

According to the speaker, to be free means to fly like a bird without any social restrictions of male restrictions. It means to walk and feel like male in the society and to receive long awaited liberation for what they were longing for. For her, it is as same as walking in the path of her own choice and to conduct the task by her own will. d. Why does the speaker prefer the present to the past? The speaker prefers the present to the past because her history was terrible, painful, and troublesome. She suffered a lot in her past. Patriarchal ideology made her suffer a lot. She was limited by the male restrictions. She was the subject to play and laugh. She didn't realize the liberation and emancipation by her heart. She was restricted to do things by her wish. She suffered from family domination, exploitation and starvation. But at the present, she feels liberated and free from male beliefs. Male ideology is declining day by day. Females have started realizing the fruits of liberation and strict male dominated beliefs have been declining in the contemporary society. She feels herself completely free in her choices and decisions. She is permitted to work and visit of her own choices. Therefore, she prefers the contemporary society than the history

John Donne, in his poem “No Man is an Island”, says, “No man is an island entire of itself.” Would Burgos agree with Donne? Do you agree with Donne or Burgos? 


d)    Why does the speaker prefer the present to the past?

Because her history was so terrible, the speaker preferred the present. In the past, she was not the only one who suffered from starvation; one of her siblings also passed away. She had been subjected to masculine dominance and was one of the victims. She was surrounded by a patriarchal culture.  Her upbringing was shaped by her family's history.


But at the present, she feels more protected as the patriarchy is slowly on the verse of eradication. She's paved the way for all the ladies out there who want to follow their own path and find their own sense of self-worth. She's proud of herself, and she deserves to be recognized for it.  The present-day hero worshipers see her as a trailblazing woman who can save the female race from extinction.

e)    John Donne, in his poem “No Man is an Island”, says, “No man is an island entire of itself.” Would Burgos agree with Donne? Do you agree with Donne or Burgos?

 John Donne is a proponent of peaceful coexistence. "No man is an island " is a famous poem written by him. No one is really self-sufficient, as stated in his poem. According to the poem, all life must be valued and respected. Each and every one of us is a component of the total. Humanity is made up of all humans, no matter how different they may be. Because we are social creatures, we cannot exist in isolation. To survive and prosper, people need to depend on the companionship and support of others. 


I support John Donne for the notion of providing equal opportunities to both men and women and their co-existence. But, Julia De Burgos, completely dismisses the importance of male role models in helping shape women's identities, in her poem "I was my own route". Actually, her plan is unrealistic; it's really simply an outlet for her anger towards men. 

Males and females are on an equal footing, and their coexistence helps to keep society in check. Burgos seeks to liberate women while avoiding the presence of males. She seems to be a radical feminist who believes in a fundamental reorganization of society that eliminates male dominance in all social and economic settings.  Burgos is incorrect since it is stated that a man and a woman are two wheels of a cart. Breaking a wheel completely stops the cart from moving forward. Reading "I was My Own Route," I came to this conclusion that John Donne opines really practical notion. 

Reference beyond the text

a)  My Idea of Freedom 

Our freedom is what enables us to live unrestricted lives free of restrictions and limitations. Freedom means raising our eyes to the stars and following the deepest aspirations of our wandering hearts. As Sir Rabindranath Tagore famously put it, "Freedom" exists when the mind is free of fear. According to me, I have a specific idea of how the freedom should be.


In order for me to feel free, my country must allow me to voice my views and allow genuine art to be heard without being branded as a censor. Freedom is when I'll be able to take a month off from work and go on a bike ride across the Sunauli (India-Nepal Border) without any fear. When a rape survivor no longer has to lie in shame throughout the days in society, they have achieved freedom. When I achieve freedom, I'll be free to pursue my goals without hindrance. When I'm free, I'll be able to express my preferences openly without worrying about being judged. With freedom comes the ability to stand up to the strong and prominent stupids who are to blame. To be free, I won't have to look at my partner first when I approach another person to start a conversation. I'll know I've achieved freedom when I can stroll around the streets of a larger city of Nepal at 11:00 PM without fear. When a homosexual guy is free from fear of being exposed to the harsh world, he has achieved true freedom.


 In conclusion, Freedom is more than simply a desire to be free of restrictions or obligations. In order to be free, you must be free to make your own decisions, whether little or large, such as what you want to eat or your professional path. It's about forming your own opinions without being swayed by others. Freedom, in my opinion, is all about being able to think, analyze, and see the world for what it is. Assessing circumstances independently, without relying on others or delegating responsibility for choices is freedom. Being free means being who you really are, both physically and psychologically. 

b)     Not all people, however, seem to agree with the kind of freedom upheld by Burgos in this poem. For example, William Faulkner, in his novel Requiem for a Nun, says, ‘“The past is never dead. It’s not even past. All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born, webs of heredity and environment, of desire and consequence, of history and eternity.” Do you agree with Faulkner? Why? Why not?


     William Faulkner, in his novel Requiem for a Nun, says, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past. All of us labor in webs spun long before we were born, webs of heredity and environment, of desire and consequence, of history and eternity". To go ahead, everything we do and experience becomes history. In the webs we've been weaving from the beginning of time, we're caught in the crossfire of history and karma that began before we were ever born. Time moves in a straight line, and so does our existence. The past will always be with us. We can't say something happened if we're still thinking about it and making choices based on it today. It doesn't matter what happened, it all becomes a part of our history, but the memories they evoke live on in our brains, thus the past never really ends. It implies that we're stuck in the past all the time. It will be with us till the end of time, 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Our memories and actions are shaped by our past experiences. In Faulkner's view, there is no such thing as the present; everything is constantly relying in the past. Consciousness records all we see and hear. Everything that happened in the past is still there for the time being.


     From the poem of Julia Burgos, we can infer that, because her history is so dreadful, she aspires to be completely free of it. It is, however, impossible to do so. The freedom that Julia de Bures fights for completely disproves the notion that there was a past too. She wants to transcend the presence of men in order to create her identity by denying the past and disapproving the existence of men. However, the world will come to a halt if men are avoided. The fact that she's a radical feminist means that she's outraged by the way men dominate women. For the sake of humanity's survival, it is critical that both sexes be present. 


     Our history forms our identity and assists us in every choice making. His view of the past is grounded in reality. We cannot ignore it, as Burgos states in her poetry. After reading these two authors, I have to say that Faulkner was right.




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