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Poetry Analysis: The Yuba City School by Chitra Divakaruni - Essay Example

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Entering a new country can be like entering a new world, full of strange people and languages, and very difficult to understand. In the poem “The Yuba City School,” poet Chitra Divakaruni outlines the difficulty and pain involved in a young student and his mother struggling to integrate into a new school system, far from their native home…
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Poetry Analysis: The Yuba City School by Chitra Divakaruni

Download file to see previous pages... The speaker of the poem laments how her son, Jagjit, had to sit “in the last row” with the boy who “mumbles and drools,” even though he is presumably a bright child and eager to learn (Divakaruni, 6-7). He has to sit there because it is difficult for him to understand the language, whose words fly “low and heavy” and make others call him “idiot idiot idiot” (28, 30). His mother, the speaker of the poem, must then go in her “one American skirt” to talk to the teacher, but her limited English will make her feel just as shamed as her son (2, 24-6). The constant shame that Jagjit and his mother experience underlies one of the central themes of this poem, the ultimate power of language. Language’s power is reinforced in many ways throughout “The Yuba City School.” One of the first is giving it physical form – Jagjit says that words flow from his teachers “mouth-cave” like “discs, each a different color” (16-17). This physical metaphor provides words with intense power in several ways. Most basically, things in physical form have more power to injure – these sometimes hurtful, sometimes incomphrensible words can physically hurt Jagjit through their description in the poem. Furthermore, their origin, a dark “mouth-cave” (16), recalls some terrible unknown place where a monster or some other terrible thing could be lurking, which makes language more terrifying than it would otherwise be. The speaker of this poem draws this physical metaphor of language further at the close of the poem, by saying that the teacher, being more proficient in the English language, can easily “pluck” the speaker’s “few English phrases” from her (57), leaving her without language, and thus, in this metaphor, powerless, even going so far as to “nail shut” the speaker’s “lips,” leaving her perpetually powerless (58). Giving language a physical form in this poem demonstrates how truly powerful it can be, and how people who are more proficient in a language, such as native speakers, hold their power over others, using it, abusing it, and truly damaging people who do not have the mastery of the language, like recent immigrants to a country. This poem is incredibly well crafted, and is truly invocative of the pain Jagjit and his mother go through. Its use of strong images throughout paint a picture of how it must be like to live a day in the speaker’s life, bouncing back and forth between the memories of her son and the present activities she is undertaking, such as preparing her skirt, as a framing narrative. One of the most clever and well constructed parts of this poem is the fact that it, through using language so well, demonstrates the power language can have. A well crafted poem in English about the difficulty of not having mastery of the language has a subtle irony to it that shows rather than tells the reader about the power of language, because on completing this poem, one has a strong emotional response, which is due entirely to the power with which the poet uses her words. The skill and talent it takes to enact this subtle irony are simply astounding, and this is an excellent example of the power of poetry, and thus language itself. “The Yuba City School,” is, on its surface, simply a story about how difficult it can be for recent immigrants to adapt to life in a new country, to function when everything is ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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