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Hanging Fire : By Audre Lorde - Essay Example

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Your Name Name of of Professor “Hanging Fire” It is perhaps only in art that one finds a cheerful coexistence of aesthetics and politics. In this light, this essay will attempt to read Audre Lorde’s poem “Hanging Fire.” The analysis will look at both formal and thematic aspects of the poem and understand them in the context of poet’s own times, social and cultural location and views projected in her art…
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Hanging Fire : By Audre Lorde
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Download file to see previous pages Thus, the poet-narrator’s art and by extension her readers become the confidants in a world where she seems utterly emotionally and psychologically isolated. The opening line “I am fourteen and my skin has betrayed me” conveys a multiplicity of meanings all at once. While at one level it speaks of the narrator’s burgeoning sexuality and the physical changes that accompany the onset of adolescence, the word “skin” is perhaps imbued with another layer of meaning. As readers of Lorde’s works one is aware of the manner in which race figures as dominant motif in her writing. Thus, perhaps the young narrator is also made to feel her racial difference from the hegemonic ethnic group as she is initiated into an adult world and grapples with the idea of beauty, identity and desire. The second stanza addresses the social expectations that the young narrator is expected to conform to. While at one level she is expected to learn to dance for an upcoming social event, at another level the poem lays bare the fact that she is yet to find a concrete direction or passion in her life. A recurrent image in the poem is that of the absent mother. The words “momma's in the bedroom with the door closed” indicates not merely a physical, but also emotional distance between the mother and the daughter. The narrator repeatedly seeks her mother in her moments of coming of age anxieties and worries, but she always finds herself separated from the latter by an emotional barrier. The aim of the poem here is arguably not a didactic one wherein the mother’s inaccessibility towards her daughter is criticised. Instead, it represents the walls of age, class, sexual orientation which prevent an empowering solidarity between women from materializing. The narrator seems to suggest that her mother is unable to gauge the emotional and even intellectual possibilities of a mother’s relationship with her daughter and chooses to have a relationship of hierarchy, divested of true bonding instead. One of the most interesting things about the poem’s language is the fact that it intersperses the somewhat childish ruminations of an adolescent with profound observations befitting of an older, more matured mind. Thus, for instance, in the second stanza the seemingly light-hearted thought of dancing is followed by an unlikely thought of her death. This stylistic tactic perhaps conveys urges readers to revise conventionally held views which dismiss a young person’s thoughts and ideas as facile and underdeveloped. It reveals that cloaked underneath childlike thoughts may be incisive intellectual observations and even social critiques of gender, race and class. The third stanza addresses the patriarchal biases prevalent in the educational system. The lines “I should have been on Math Team, my marks were better than his” bear evidence to this. It shows how a girl despite being academically superior to her male counterparts is denied the same opportunities as them. The reference to braces in this section points to the expectations of social propriety and conventional standards of beauty which are imposed on a young girl from the very onset of puberty. The poem ends with the refrain “and momma's in the bedroom with the door closed.” This reiterates the emotional accessibility of the narrator’ ...Download file to see next pages Read More
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