The main characters of ‘‘Amigo Brothers,’’ Antonio and Felix, are seventeen years old, best friends, and serious about boxing. The narrator describes how the boys have known each other since childhood and consider themselves more brothers than friends. Despite their closeness, the two boys are very different in appearance and in fighting style. But they share the common dream of someday being the lightweight boxing champion of the world. They train together, work out together, and encourage each other.
Although many boys their age are caught up in the negative aspects of life on the streets, Antonio and Felix keep their minds and lifestyles positive. They are more interested in reading fighting magazines, watching matches, and being experts on all the fighters than gangs or drugs. As fighters themselves, they have both won many matches and represented their community well. They are proud of themselves and their roots.
The narrator explains that . . . Read More
As a poet, and indeed as a person, Sexton was primarily concerned with telling stories. Diane Middlebrook begins her book Anne Sexton: A Biography with an account of Sexton’s press interviews, in which Sexton was usually asked to explain how she began writing poetry. Every time, she answered that question using many of the same facts and even many of the same phrases, as if she were improvising on a prepared script and changing it to suit the needs or expectations of the audience. Most interesting, however, was the form the story took. The story she told in answer to the question was based on the fairy tale of Snow White. The wicked queen became Sexton’s mother, her poisoned apple the pressure of society for her to conform to a conventional life as a wife and mother in the Boston suburbs. The poisoned sleep became her suicide attempts, from which she was awakened not by the kiss of a handsome prince but by psychotherapy and its manifestation in poetry. Living ‘‘happily ever . . . Read More
Sexton’s ‘‘Young’’ consists of a single sentence extended over twenty-three lines of verse. It takes the form of a reminiscence of a summer evening in the narrator’s childhood. It is spoken in the voice of a first-person narrator, but this speaker should not be simply equated with the author herself. Although this voice seems to mediate Sexton’s memories and experiences, the reader must not lose sight of the fact that the speaker is a fictive creation of Sexton’s and is in no way bound to report the objective reality of Sexton’s life.
The narrator ranges over memories of the subjective perception of a particular evening of her youth. She begins by emphasizing a more than natural barrier of time between her present and past. The memories themselves consist of vivid sensory impressions and end with an unresolved questioning of cosmic powers before finally stressing the physical changes of puberty the narrator was experiencing at that . . . Read More
Sir Philip Sidney’s ‘‘Ye Goatherd Gods’’ is a pastoral poem written impressively as a double sestina. Sidney wrote the poem as part of The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia (a long work that includes prose, poetry, and other forms, often shortened to Arcadia), all for the entertainment of his younger sister, with whom he was staying at the time. ‘‘Ye Goatherd Gods’’ is, from a content point of view, fairly straightforward. Two shepherds, Strephon and Klaius, are suffering from heartbreak in being absent from Urania, whom they both love desperately. From a characterization and emotional standpoint, the poem does not stray far from this basic theme of longing.
There are other elements of the poem, however, by which Sidney adds complexity. The form of the poem, to be sure, is very sophisticated and complicated, yet the poem itself does not suffer from the constraints of the form. There are subtle differences in the characterizations of the two shepherds, . . . Read More
The first stanza of ‘‘Ye Goatherd Gods’’ is spoken by Strephon. He and Klaius are shepherds in Sidney’s larger work Arcadia, in which this poem originally appeared. In this stanza, Strephon appeals to the gods, nymphs, and satyrs, all of whom are common figures in pastoral poetry. These figures and the landscape—valleys, grass, and woods—establish the setting. Strephon then advises the gods, nymphs, and satyrs to grant the favor of listening to his complaining music. He says that his woes come in the morning and stay with him through the evening.
In the second stanza, Klaius appeals to the heavens in his woe. He addresses first Mercury (which can be seen in the evening), then Diana the huntress (which is the moon), and finally the morning star (or Venus). As in the first stanza, this stanza marks out time by the passing of the day. Klaius also uses Strephon’s approach of . . . Read More
‘‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’’ begins and ends with reflections on oddity. The first stanza presents an example of something characterized as odd; the last, of something characterized as not at all odd. Thus the poem comes full circle from beginning to end. It is not a closed circle, however, but an open spiral. The difference between a circle and a spiral is the difference between repetition and evolution, but in the instance of ‘‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’’ evolution does not indicate progress but only variation. Progress suggests a linear development, movement, most likely an improvement or, at least, intensification. In ‘‘The Walrus and the Carpenter,’’ something happens that makes a difference in the poem—the story of the oysters’ fate at the hands of the title characters unfolds— yet no progress is made. Rather there is transformation or variation on a theme. The context is changed. The type of phenomenon that the poem shows as odd in the . . . Read More
Child Labor and Exploitation
The oysters are, in effect, children, seduced from their beds and marched through the treacherous sands of the world by two wicked grown-ups who finally devour them. The exploitation of children in England during the nineteenth century was one of the most formidable issues of that century. Whereas London had always had an underclass and posed many challenges to young people, as is highlighted in many eighteenth-century novels, the advent of the industrial revolution and the growth of a factory system of manufacture required a massive number of bodies to serve as levers and connective elements for the running of machinery. Children worked long hours in factories, and often were mangled, maimed, or even killed on the job by the machinery they ran.
Political Conflict in Europe
‘‘The Walrus and the Carpenter,’’ like the book in which it appears, Through the . . . Read More
Characteristically ‘‘The Walrus and the Carpenter’’ rushes forward with a propulsive energy as it is read. In large part this is because of alliteration, the repetition of consonant sounds, especially in the initial letters of neighboring words. The poem is especially rich in sibilants—s’s and sh’s. These slippery consonants not only help the poem slide along but evoke the sea and the very feeling of swallowing oysters.
At several points in the poem, Carroll narrates the action by the sort of repetition that comes from drawing up a catalog. In the first stanzas, sun, moon, billows, sea, sand, clouds, and birds are mentioned, and their roles in establishing the action and the landscape of the poem are presented. In the sixth stanza, walking and talking are catalogued activities, as are the grooming activities of the oysters in stanza 8. Stanza 11 presents the . . . Read More
Violation of territory is a continuing motif in ‘‘TheWalrus and the Carpenter.’’ In the first stanza, the sun encroaches on the moon’s domain. Later, the walrus and the carpenter draw the oysters out of the sea onto the sand. In each case, a dominant force invades the territory of a weaker entity and the weaker ones, whether the moon or the oysters, are powerless and can only sulk or beg, but to no avail, being displaced and overwhelmed. In the first instance, the moon was not complicit in her defeat. Suddenly the natural order of the universe was violated. In the second, the oysters were complicit, having been foolish enough to stir out of the safety of their natural environment.
When the walrus summons them to walk, the oysters follow without hesitation, eagerly. They leave their beds in the sea without a thought. The eldest oyster, although he seems to be on to . . . Read More
The poem begins with a paradox, presented by the peculiar image of the sun shining upon the sea in the middle of the night. The mention of the sea establishes the landscape of the action of the poem. The jaunty rhythm of the poem carries the reader and suggests the easiness of light verse, belying the grim subjects of the poem— seduction, betrayal, and death.
A wry sort of conflict is introduced since the moon is sulking because of the sun’s presence in a realm in which he does not belong. He is robbing the moon of the pleasure of presiding over her domain. The theme of conflicting interests is thus introduced.
The third stanza is devoted entirely to description. Sea and sand are described by their predominant characteristics of wetness and dryness. The sky is presented as cloudless. Birds are not flying in it for the simple reason that . . . Read More