Lifes A Journey Poem Analysis Essays

  "One day you finally knew

what you had to do, and began,

though the voices around you

kept shouting

their bad advice...

...a new voice

which you slowly

recognized as your own,

...kept you company

as you strode deeper and deeper into the world..."

-from Mary Oliver's "The Journey"

Look below the fold for the poem in its entirety, an accompanying literary analysis by Ms. K, and guidelines for your literary analysis papers.

“The Journey”
by Mary Oliver, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
kept shouting
their bad advice-
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
was terrible.

It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do-
determined to save
the only life that you could save.

-from Dream Work

“The Journey” by Mary Oliver is a poem about transformation. The speaker challenges us to reject a life that revolves solely around responsibility to others, and to enter into the “wild night” in order to find our own voices. To be true to our hearts in the face of the power of conformity is always a wild ride

A journey like this goes against the prevailing current; it requires a certain “stepping out of line”, a certain break with polite society. Other people, their voices “shouting their bad advice”, feel the ripples. They want us to stay and take care of them: to mend their lives.

Oliver speaks to the birth of a new, authentic self, one not conditioned by the past. In stepping out, we don’t walk away from the world, but into it.  Eventually, the new voice

“...[keeps] you company
as you [stride] deeper and deeper into the world…

The reality is profoundly simple: in being true to that small voice within, we are being of service in the most profound way possible.  In saving “the only life [we] could save”, we are affirming one of the deepest and most sobering truths of all: no one else can ever walk our journeys for us. Each of us must respond to the call on our own.

Written in free verse, with one example of internal rhyme ( “… you finally knew / what you had to do”), this poem’s  structure  is continuous, with one stanza break. Like many poets before her, including Frost in “The Road Not Taken”, Oliver uses the extended metaphor of a physical journey as a metaphor for a solitary, spiritual journey towards individual change. Other examples of figurative language include sensory images of a “tug at our ankles” and a “road full of fallen branches and stones” which reflect the obstacles that attempt to keep us from our destination, and personification in “… the wind pried / with its stiff fingers.”

This poem captures that moment when we decide that we must listen to our own voices in order to live an authentic lives. It addresses the fundamental human experience of leaving behind the old, and entering the new.

-Ms. K

Questions to address when analysing a poem:

  1. Who is the speaker? Is the voice of the speaker in the poem different from that of the poet?

  2. That is the poem about? Is there a metaphor or an extended metaphor?

  3. What sensory images do I find?

  4. When I scan the poem, are there unusual patterns or deviations in meter that are worthy of note?

  5. What figurative language is used?

  6. Is there evidence that this poem is universal? (Universalitymeans that it "appeals to readers in a wide variety of cultures and across a wide variety of historical periods--i.e., basic emotions, situations, values, and attitudes that readers can relate to regardless of other cultural or historical differences." (Definitions found at Literary Terms and Definitions)

Your literary analysis must be typed, be 300-400 words in length, and must include a copy of the poem. See me if you have any questions!

Life's Decisions Explored in The Road Not Taken, by Robert Frost

985 Words4 Pages

Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken”, when first read on a very simple level appears to be a poem about a man’s decision on whether to take one road or the other. The poem obviously has a much deeper meaning to it. The most apparent metaphor in the poem is one of the two roads representing decisions in one’s life. Everyone goes through decisions in their life, so this metaphor connects the reader to the poem more personally. In Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken”, Frost successfully creates a poem that a reader can connect to, a poem about difficult decisions in one’s life. Throughout time, humans have always been required to make difficult, life-changing decisions often in their lives. Frequently they may…show more content…

The speaker is staring down two roads and wishing that he would not have to make a decision and could just take both roads. This is a metaphor of choices people have to make in their lives, and someone wishing they wouldn’t have to make the decision. The speaker looks down one road and can only see as far as “where it bent in the undergrowth”. This tells the reader that the speaker cannot see as far as he would like into his life to make the decision easier. The speaker “took the other, as just as fair, … Because it was grassy and wanted wear”. The speaker chose to take the road that was not traveled. The speaker does not want to travel in someone else’s path; he wants to be different. But when the reader takes a further look at the roads, they “had worn them really about the same”, adding further difficulty to his decision.
“Both roads had been worn "about the same," though his "taking" the second is based on its being less worn. The basis of selection is individuation, variation, and "difference": taking the one "less traveled by." That he "could not travel both / And be one traveler" means not only that he will never be able to return but also that experience alters the traveler; he would not be the same by the time he came back” (Faggen).
The day that the speaker is looking down the roads there are “leaves no step had trodden black”, showing that no person had taken either path; there is no black pathway of a person’s

Show More

0 thoughts on “Lifes A Journey Poem Analysis Essays

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *