Advice to Women by Eunice de Souza Poem Summary Notes and Line by Line Explanation in English


“Advice to Women,” written by Eunice de Souza, one of India’s most influential feminist poets of the twentieth century, is a brief aphorism on the “otherness” of lovers. This poem is written in the guise of advice to a woman on the verge of a relationship. Eunice’s amusing statement on the preparation of a heartless detachment is around keeping cats. She portrays how a woman who is mentally dependent on her lover and weak within herself is treated in her writing. This piece’s central idea explores the “otherness of lovers.” She illustrates this idea by using metaphorical language.

About the poet

Eunice de Souza was an Indian poet, literary critic, and novelist. She wrote several notable books, including Women in Dutch Painting, Ways of Belonging, Nine Indian Women Poets, These My Words, and Learn From The Almond Leaf. She also published two novels and edited anthologies on poetry, folktales, and literary criticism.


Line 1-6

Keep cats
if you want to learn to cope with
the otherness of lovers.
Otherness is not always neglect —
Cats return to their litter trays
when they need to.


In these lines from the poem “Advice to Women” by Eunice de Souza, the speaker suggests that one can learn to deal with the differences or unique qualities of their lovers by observing and emulating the behavior of cats. The speaker emphasizes that the “otherness” of lovers should not always be interpreted as neglect or indifference. Instead, like cats that instinctively return to their litter trays when they need to, lovers may also have their own ways of expressing care and connection.


The poem “Advice to Women” by Eunice de Souza uses cats as a metaphor to illustrate the importance of understanding and accepting the unique qualities and expressions of one’s lover. Cats are often associated with independence, mystery, and aloofness, suggesting that lovers have their own unique ways of expressing themselves and their affection. The speaker encourages learning to cope with these differences, highlighting the value of understanding and accepting the “otherness” of one’s lover. The poem also emphasizes that “otherness” should not be equated with neglect, challenging the common assumption that there is a universal way to express love and care. Lastly, the poem emphasizes the importance of allowing one’s partner to have independence and autonomy for a harmonious relationship.

Line 7- 12

Don't cuss out of the window
at their enemies.
That stare of perpetual surprise
in those great green eyes
will teach you
to die alone.


In these lines from the poem “Advice to Women” by Eunice de Souza, the speaker advises against using profanity or insults to address one’s enemies. The reference to “those great green eyes” suggests a certain level of innocence and naivety in the face of hostility. The lines conclude with a stark statement that this naivety will ultimately lead one to “die alone.”


The poem advises against using vulgar language or insults when addressing enemies, urging for dignity and composure. The reference to “great green eyes” suggests innocence or vulnerability, symbolizing growth and renewal. The poem also emphasizes the importance of non-aggression and non-violence in counteracting negativity and aggression. The phrase “will teach you to die alone” suggests that maintaining innocence may lead to isolation or loneliness. The poem encourages reflection on how one responds to conflict and the potential outcomes of those choices. The speaker encourages the reader to maintain a sense of innocence and surprise in the face of hostility, highlighting the potential consequences of not defending oneself or standing up to enemies.