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Bringing the Doll
Two dolls in rags and tatters, one missing an arm and a leg, the other blind in one eye— I grabbed them from her arms, “No,” I said, “they cannot come.” Each tight luggage I had packed only for the barest need: No room for sentiment or memory to clutter loose ends my stern resolve. I reasoned, even a child must learn she can’t take what must be left behind. And so the boat turned seaward, a smart wind blowing dry the stealthy tears I could not wipe. Then I saw—rags, tatters and all— there among the neat trim packs, the dolls I ruled to leave behind. Her silence should have warned me she knew her burdens as I knew mine: her clean white years unlived and mine paid. She battened on a truth she knew I too must own: When what’s at stake is loyalty or love, hers are the true rights. Her own faiths she must keep, not I.
Michelle Anne Tayoba BSHRM-TM 3-1
A lot of interpretations came into my mind after reading the poem entitled “Bringing the Dolls” written by Merlie Alunan. After the brainstorming of our group, we came up with a single interpretation. The poem tries to tell a sad experience which is a story about a mother and child leaving someone close to their heart, probably the father. It tried to put a picture of a broken family. The situation has revolved around the two personas of the poem and the metaphorical dolls using imagery and appropriate choice of words that have symbolic meanings. Doll is a miniature of human figure which is usually associated to young girls. Dolls can be considered as a precious treasure of a child. As time goes by, she was so attached to it that the doll became a very important and special in her life. In the first stanza, two dolls were first described as in rags and tatters, meaning that they were worn out scrap and torn apart from love. Two dolls would also mean something which could be the relationship of the mother and father when they were complete and living happily together with their daughter. But this relationship that bounds them together did not last long. That is why it was further described that dolls were missing an arm and a leg and blind in one eye, which would possibly refer to a broken family that were frayed apart. Though it’s early enough to say its theme yet unsure; this stanza seems to introduce the conflict of the story of the poem which was an unfortunate event in their lives. It was also in this stanza that the persona of a mother suddenly came when she grabbed those dolls from the child. The mother was the speaker of the poem and she was speaking directly to the readers. There’s a contradiction in this line at the vantage point of a mother because she was supposed to show care also on what her child values. But the last lines show that there was something wrong between the mother and the ‘dolls’. If we tried to figure out what doll really symbolizes, it seems to be a special someone (maybe a father) that’s close and important to both the child and the mother. However, the mother was saying “No” maybe because they could not live together anymore as one so she said, “they cannot come”. Letting go came in the second stanza by using symbols in language. Luggage or suitcases and bags are used for carrying personal belongings during a journey. Here it connotes leaving away. It was stated in this stanza that the mother has packed only for the barest need, the necessities in life. She had taken away the miseries in her life that she was so ready to go and that everything was neatly packed. It was in the line “no room for sentiment or memory to clutter with loose ends my stern resolve” that tells that the mother do not wanted those sad events to mess up with what’s left in herself or in anyway stop her from leaving. Maybe what’s left with her was her dignity and self-esteem. She had made up her mind that there’s no other way but to let go and move on. As the only way, the child must also learn that she cannot take what must be left behind as stated in this stanza. It means that the child must also accept things or the truth even though it really hurts. The third stanza tries to convey the message about moving on in life using imagery and symbols in language. “Boat turned seaward” symbolizes journey in life. It may be rough along the way like the sea that has many breaking waves but one should continue to row the boat to reach its destination. The next line “a smart wind blowing dry the stealthy tears I could not wipe” was imagery in language used by the author. Stealthy means taking action designed to escape notice. The tears that she did not want to go down were blown away by the strong wind. It put into picture that the mother even though affected would not want to let it show to her daughter or even admit to her self that she was crying. It sets the tone of sadness here in this stanza. She was somehow fighting the sorrow deep inside her heart. She could not wipe away her tears because she could not remove the grief she felt inside. At all times, moving on is easier said than done. As stated in the last line of the stanza, “Then I saw there among the neat trim packs, the dolls I ruled to leave behind”. The past still remains in the mind of the mother and just like the doll; it is also difficult to leave behind. In life, our actions have consequences and sometimes we have to risks a little. In the fourth and last stanza, the author stated about the burdens that the mother and child will encounter. The child was silent because she was also affected with what had happened. The child knew her burdens – her clean white years unlived. The child would be more
affected with the break up of their family. Clean white years refer to the child character because she was younger and she would come across and experience more to life. The mother paid her price would mean that she would pay the consequences of her actions, of losing the one she loved. When the child battened on a truth she wanted to know and understand the truth. There were things to be at risked. As stated, “When what’s at stake is loyalty or love hers are the true rights”. For the mother, it was a battle between loyalty or love to her family. This line seems confusing because it was not stated as loyalty and love. If there is love there should be loyalty but it give the impression of disconnection of these two abstract words. The mother would either risk her loyalty to her family to become whole again or her love to her daughter and herself. Even if she chooses loyalty, there’s no love anymore. On the other hand, the child has her true rights. That is, she has the right to know the whole truth or maybe to the extent of choosing between her mother and father. The trust and complete acceptance of truth also depends solely on the child, not on her mother. The mother should also respect the choice or the decision of her daughter on what she holds near and dear to her heart just like the choice of bringing the dolls which were ragged from love. Ideally, the child wanted their family to be complete again. Perhaps, she was also close to her father very much that he could not accept the sudden decision of her mother. We have different needs in life. However, the mother was told that she must never lose faith on the things that she values and loved. The insight of the poem was also given here in the last stanza of the poem. There will always be consequences to our actions and sometimes you have to risk what you can afford to. We made our choices and decisions on what to value and keep in our hearts. Just like the mother, we don’t have the right to reprimand what’s significant to other people based on our value system. Bringing back memories especially if it was painful that one would wish not to think about it anymore, is always not easy to do. Reminiscing is bitter and sweet. Letting go of someone you love is harder to do especially when you have promised to live together forever. But sometimes life is so cruel that we should have to leave behind a part of ourselves. Fighting someone you loved is not also easy to do especially when your trust is gone. Our needs and values vary on what are the things we want to preserve that make us comfortable and what we would like to keep within our hearts. Just like the mother and child, they have different perspectives and values – mother let go of the dolls while the child wanted to keep them. Each has their own reasons that they believe in, either to keep the sanctity of the family or not. Our past experiences also keep us from going on in our journey and give us the strength to stand up when we stumble down.
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