This paper "The Youngest Daughter by Cathy Song" focuses on a narrative, free verse poem composed of five stanzas. It is of a first-person perspective which, based on the title, shows that the speaker is the youngest daughter. The narrator tells about her daily activities with her mother. …
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Therefore, without any choice, the youngest daughter has to look after her mother and take care of her, returning all the mother’s sacrifices for her, her siblings and even their father. In trying to understand more clearly the matters the speaker is bringing to the reader’s attention, the speaker will be discussed further in detail together with the setting, style, ambiguity reflected in the poem and also the impact the poem has on this author. Reading the poem once may not bring much sense because of the ambiguity of words used. One can never tell what the poet is really talking about not unless he knows pretty well Asian traditions which are pertinent in the poem. From the point of view of someone who is blinded about Asian traditions, the literal meanings can be understood but somehow, he would notice that obviously, the poet is saying something else other than what is literally meant by the words. For instance, the phrase, “The sky has been dark for many years”, could be well understood literally. However, it seems to be unrelated to the succeeding lines of the first paragraph so that one cannot help but question what the poet is trying to say behind such words. Similarly, the phrase also seems to have no relevance to the other paragraphs. In fact, the images created in each paragraph appear to be just separate circumstances in the speaker’s life which do not really give a clear overview of what she is presenting. Nevertheless, a little background about Chinese traditions, assuming that the speaker is Chinese because the author is of Chinese descent, will greatly help in understanding the poem. It is expected of the youngest Chinese daughter not to marry in order for her to be able to take care of the aging parents. If she marries, she will still have the responsibility of taking care of them especially when they are sick. Considering the burdens of having one’s own family and the need to take care of one’s parents, it would perhaps be best for the youngest daughter not to marry. In the poem, it is obvious that the daughter opted for the latter. The phrase “The sky has been dark for many years”, now has a figurative meaning, describing how dark the years have gone by for the youngest daughter who has done nothing but take care of her ailing mother. From the fourth stanza, one can suppose that the youngest daughter has been attending to her mother’s needs for thirty years and that long a time could really put someone in a melancholic life and yearn for an escape. The youngest daughter, despite her obligations, still tries to dream about her future. Perhaps she has been doing that for the past thirty years so that thinking of her freedom now deeply hurts her. In the second stanza, the speaker says, “when I touch my eyelids, my hands react as if I had just touched something hot enough to burn”. Touching one’s eyelid could be an effort to clear one’s eyes, for her to look more clearly. However, whenever she looks at the realities of life, at the fact that she actually does not have to take all the obligations of taking care of her mother, she pains so much and therefore has to remove her hands away from her eyelids immediately. For the Chinese, it is almost a crime to leave aged parents in the care of other people. They cling to Confucius’ teachings that children have the responsibility of returning the care their parents have lavished on them.
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