This action might not be possible to undo. Are you sure you want to continue?
(the rhythm) is very regular I went with Aunt Consuelo suggests a calmness, even boredom for the speaker. to keep her dentist's appointment and sat and waited for her Lack of emotive language in these lines helps develop the calm in the dentist's waiting room. tone the line lack any emotive adjectives that suggest any kind It was winter. It got dark of attitude on behalf of the speaker. early. The waiting room was full of grown-up people, arctics and overcoats, Individuals are only described by what they wear. Again lamps and magazines. emphasis is on objective description, which helps to establish My aunt was inside the naivety and innocence of the young speaker. what seemed like a long time and while I waited and read the National Geographic The volcano is an example of vertical imagery. It is simply a description, but (I could read) and carefully can be considered as a metaphor as it reflects the violent explosion of studied the photographs: knowledge that occurs within the young speaker. the inside of a volcano, black, and full of ashes; then it was spilling over The image of the Long Pig again suggests her innocence. It also in rivulets of fire. foreshadows the weight of the understanding to come the adult world is Osa and Martin Johnson full of dark knowledge that we are protected from as children. dressed in riding breeches, laced boots, and pith helmets. A dead man slung on a pole Images of women who are physically marked because they are women. Their "Long Pig," the caption said. identity is shaped simply because they are women this links nicely to Bishop s Babies with pointed heads idea that our identity is often determined by social expectations and rules wound round and round with string; black, naked women with necks The women are seen as objects their individuality is stripped of them. wound round and round with wire like the necks of light bulbs. Their breasts were horrifying. Short, sharp statements, that suggests a need to see. She seems to I read it right straight through. need to mark this moment: know which magazine this experience I was too shy to stop. has come from, know the date on which this has occurred. These are And then I looked at the cover: nice, clear markers of the external world that she is about to leave. the yellow margins, the date. Suddenly, from inside, came an oh! of pain The key word here is inside . this is a pun being used as it could suggest both Aunt --Aunt Consuelo's voice-Consuelo s physical voice or an internal voice within the speaker. This starts to link the speaker to her aunt and suggests that her identity isn t as individual as she though. not very loud or long. I wasn't at all surprised; even then I knew she was a foolish, timid woman. Here she is discovering that is identical with her aunt she is herself, but I might have been embarrassed, also her aunt. This is the idea that our identity is partly shaped by our but wasn't. What took me families and is therefore partly out of our control. completely by surprise was that it was me: my voice, in my mouth. All of a sudden our speaker is falling outside the normal boundaries of her Without thinking at all identity even as she is desperately trying to fix the date of the magazine in I was my foolish aunt, her head. An internal realisation is going on that is pulling the speaker out of her normal reality but she is resisting being pulled out by it. The rhythm I--we--were falling, falling, here suggests agitation and confusion because it is no longer regular. our eyes glued to the cover of the National Geographic, February, 1918. Bishop focuses again on objective images descriptions of the real world to indicate the needs/desires of the speaker to hold on to things she understands. This suggests that she is feeling overwhelmed by her I said to myself: three days epiphany. and you'll be seven years old. I was saying it to stop Another metaphor is being employed here another vertical image. This the sensation of falling off time it is about falling. This helps to express the negative impact of new the round, turning world. knowledge the image is an effective reflection of panic. into cold, blue-black space. But I felt: you are an I, The fundamental struggle is laid out by the speaker. She is both an I , an individual you are an Elizabeth, who has her own identity, but also an Elizabeth - the person that other people know, you are one of them. judge, read, etc. And also one of them - a female, a human being - someone who is forced to fit into certain social categories.
Why should you be one, too? I scarcely dared to look to see what it was I was. I gave a sidelong glance --I couldn't look any higher-at shadowy gray knees, trousers and skirts and boots and different pairs of hands lying under the lamps. I knew that nothing stranger had ever happened, that nothing stranger could ever happen. Why should I be my aunt, or me, or anyone? What similarities boots, hands, the family voice I felt in my throat, or even the National Geographic and those awful hanging breasts held us all together or made us all just one? How I didn't know any word for it how "unlikely". . . How had I come to be here, like them, and overhear a cry of pain that could have got loud and worse but hadn't? The waiting room was bright and too hot. It was sliding beneath a big black wave, another, and another. Then I was back in it. The War was on. Outside, in Worcester, Massachusetts, were night and slush and cold, and it was still the fifth of February, 1918.
Repetition: The speaker returns to the image she gave us at the beginning. This time though, it reads much different. Due to her sudden realisation what she sees becomes a really nice representation of the lack of individuality that comes in the adult world. What she sees is just an accumulation of figures that have no immediate individuality.
This could almost be seen as a theme statement of the poem that after coming to this kind of realization your world is never the same. The moment of epiphany impacts your whole way of seeing the world forever.
The rhetorical questions used in this section are really interesting because not only do they express the speaker trying to figure out how her identity came to be what it is, it also demands that the reader consider their thoughts on the issue. This section is really important because the questions ask the really difficult questions that this poem explores. How is our identity constructed? How in control are we of our identity? And by using rhetorical questions it helps us insert the reader into the poem as well.
A last vertical image for us. Once more Bishop expresses the overwhelming nature of epiphany through the image of a wave this is effective because it suggests drowning, which is being overwhelmed by water. The use of the colour black and the repetition of another further strengthens the overwhelming effect of this image.
The use of then indicates a shift or turn to a different time. She s suddenly returns to the external world where it s winter and gets dark and where there is a war happening and where the date is still the same. So, in many ways, nothing has changed. But, for the speaker, everything has changed. She has lost herself but also remade herself. The repetition in the structure helps to remind us of where the speaker started and where she has arrived at by the end.