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The Explication Of Lawrence Ferlinghettis English Language Essay

1317 words (5 pages) Essay

1st Jan 1970 English Language Reference this

A simple glance at this poem is enough to notice Ferlinghetti’s unique choice in structure. Taking a deeper look, there are several elements which help showcase the message using the principles of form. The staggered format and artful spacing seems to support the subject matter of harmony by adding a pleasant flow to the poem. A sense of stability is created by the meticulous arrangement; the words on the left-side are well-adjusted with those found on the right. The contrast found between “heaven” and “hell”, adds to the concept of balance in the world which brings us back to the thematic statement, there is a pain to match every pleasure. To every light exists a dark. Henceforth, an important element of design, shading. There is an aspect of darkness that underlies the poem with the subtle references to death and starvation. The good is shadowed by the bad. From this, colours such light and dark blues come to mind. The harsher tones such as red are present but not as vibrant; “a touch”(5) of hell, “some people”(13) dying . On the subject of death, symbolism of winter and darkness is present, alongside the tragedy that comes with fall. There is also constant reference to life, “born”, which sprouts greens which are associated with spring and yellows to correlate with the summers. Another element of design is emphasis. “The world is a beautiful place to be born into if you don’t mind…” (1-2, 11-12, 19-20) is repeatedly stressed and “Name Brand” (28) is the only phrase in the poem that is capitalized. These moments of intensity carries us into the next principle which is rhythm. An interesting aspect of the poem is the somewhat “zigzag” organization of words, where each line alternates sides; this faces an interesting shift from lines 45 to 50

(48) and goosing statues

and even thinking

and kissing people and

The lines descend from right to left, similar to how a flight composed of three stairs would. Seemingly, a measly observation, this occurrence actually adds to the pace of the poem especially when read aloud. The rhythm increases, which culminates a dulcet crescendo from which a momentous feeling of happiness strikes and all of a sudden a line break evokes the reader to step back. The poem ends on an aesthetic note of emphasis as “mortician” it is abruptly placed in the center.

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Going further in-depth, there are several components which help showcase the message using principles of style. An eloquent reading by Lawrence Ferlinghetti is not necessary to pick up on the relaxed arrangement of the poem. The reader is introduced to a mellow irregular rhyming scheme. “now and then”(6) and “even in heaven”(8) is an example of consonance is complimented through assonance found in the same stanza “fine”(7) and “time”(10). The third stanza builds on this concept and does an excellent job of conveying the message through figurative language. “into”(20) and “two”(24) keeps the assonance alive, later carried by the rhyming in “places”(23) and “faces”(26). Leading us into a cacophony “with its men of distinction and men of extinction”(29-30) and the rhyming found in ‘segregations”(34), “investigations”(35) as well as “constipations”(36). Finally tied together with the alliteration used in “fool flesh”(37). Everything is arranged in a particular cadence that flows in accordance with one another. Nonetheless, this does not diminish the negativity he depicts in this stanza about the world. The line immediately after reads “Yes the world is the best place of all”(39) and using juxtaposition the pessimistic theme found in the previous stanza is counteracted. Additionally, to balance the negative the reader is engaged using the five sense “looking at everything and smelling flowers […] and kissing people”(46-50). Referencing these powerful emotions experienced through the world helps conceal the bad mentioned earlier. Something as ordinary as “wearing pants” (50) is made to sound optimistic. Humorous, because looking back at lines 46 to 50, Ferlinghetti writes “and even thinking”(49) as if it is something people rarely do. This brings us to the cynical undertone and the idea of irony, undoubtedly brought forth in this poem. When he writes that “our fool flesh is heir to” the alliteration is talking about the vulnerable selves we are bound to become. The irony satire symbolizes winter and is matched perfectly with the darkness evidently found in the text. It is also associated with wisdom as the reader is able to gain a new perspective through the poem. Ferlinghetti repeatedly calls the world a beautiful place but at the same time points out all the things that are wrong with it. Heaven, the finest place of all is not so perfect “because even in heaven they don’t sing all the time”(7-10). A touch of negativity is associated with every positive and vice versa. “mortician” is proceeded by the word “smiling”. A paradox, but the choice in placing such a euphonic word next to something as harsh as death further corroborates the concept of good and bad coinciding with one another.

Finally, the content of the poem is where concrete meanings and references are found and are used to help support the overall message. Ferlinghetti makes it so that the readers who have difficulty transporting themselves to a higher state of understanding, are able to see the world through a detachment lens. Visually he jumps from the pleasant to the troubling. His intention is for people to gain a heightened perspective. “Oh the world is a beautiful place to be born into if you don’t much mind a few dead minds in the higher places” (29-23) specific connections to politics are evident in these lines. He seems to be referring to the idea that those in higher positions, or those who “run” society are not necessarily the most qualified to do so. The repetition of “if you don’t mind” plays on the idea of the human condition of what people are willing to deal with. If an individual is okay with some people dying or people starving some of the time then they are okay with living in a world that is unfairly balanced. Furthermore, we are brought to the denotative meanings of improprieties. It refers to the “incorrectness” or quality or condition of being improper. Our society is specifically referred to as “Name Brand”(28). This connotes the fact that people conform to the status quo and become prey to; they become targets to these “men of power”. This is where feminism in the poem can be seen. The people in the authoritative positions are males, from which the idea of an unfavourable balance is derived. Ferlinghetti jumps from these states of darkness to lightness. There is a symbolic reference to summer. “in the middle of the summer” ( 56) to be precise. It is speaking of the peak of the best time of the year. A time of romance which mythological criticism describes as a “happy society that resists change”. Summer followed by tragedy, which is related back to fall. Recollecting what was first stated in the previous stanza “Yes the world is the best place of all”(38) twenty lines later the idea is affirmed but contrarily states, “Yes but then right in the middle of it comes the smiling mortician” (59-62). The last lines of the poem tell us that once again the world may be a beautiful place but there will always be darkness that underlies it.


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