Philip Levine’s poem entitle "What work is?" is an obvious litany of a workman’s grievance and a narration of what he or she goes throught at work. This was very obvious in the opening line where Levine pointed out the poignant aspect of their lives of being a worker. He…
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The poem however took a deeper meaning when the “rain” in a “long line” is taken figuratively. For it meant feeling blue in waiting in a long line not to mention the inconvenience brought by rain while “waiting at Ford Higland Park”. This complaint, grievance or poignant disposition of the writer serves as the thesis of the poem where the rest of the poem take its cue and argument of a narrative of a complaint.
The workplace is not only inconvenient and difficult but can be cruel as well. With work and employees making a living, most of course would want more than they want. This want to have more can turn “your own brother” as “someone else’s brother”
Evident with this line when “You rub your glasses /with your fingers,/and of course it’s someone else’s brother”. This suggests that man will turn against another just to get ahead ten paces ahead of us. This has been true during the time of Levine and is still true today not only at work but also in other aspect of life. Some will step on another or will do anything even to the detriment of a brother just to have a leg up.
Work however is not only about drudgery and a never ending quest to endure. There must be a reason why people endure even the most back braking of work. Levine explained this in the poem why a man has to work. Poignant as the poem may sound with all the difficulty and impersonal rat race at the place of work, people work because of concern and love for the people they love. This love for someone else in their lives make them endure the drudgery of work no matter how hard it is. Levine may address that person in the poem as “brother” in the line “the love flooding you for your brother”, but it can be applied to anyone where a worker finds a reason to endure those long hours of repetitive work. The person may be a father or a mother working to provide for their family, a brother or a sister providing
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