Since the dawn of time, human beings have been in a constant struggle to survive. Whether you are a man or women, black or white, rich or poor, the hardships of life have seemed to bind us together in a very cruel world. Many poets write about poverty, envy, and the outcome of war which are just a few of the many battles people fight everyday.Poems such as “Women Work”, “Richard Corey”, and “The Sad Children’s Story” define the different meanings of life.
“Women Work,” a poem by Maya Angelou, is the story of the monotony of a poor women’s day to day existence. It never changes; housework, feed and dress the kids, shop, cook, and work the fields. The only solace, the only redemption, is when she will become one with nature. She has no material goods to show for her hard work, but she has peace in the fact that the world around her is all that is hers. She says, “Shine on me, sunshine, rain on me, rain, fall softly, dewdrops, and cool my brow again.” The rain and the dewdrops symbolize tears falling on her in her final resting-place. She then says, “Storm, blow me from here with your fiercest wind. Let me float across the sky, ‘till I can rest again.” The storm represents death and the taking away of her soul to her heavenly inheritance. “Fall gentle snowflake, cover me with white cold icy kisses and let me rest tonight,” is the image of snow falling on her grave. The last stanza is, “Sun, rain, curving sky, mountain, oceans, leaf and stone, star shine, moon glow, you’re all that I can call my own.” This last section sums up her beliefs that she finds comfort and eternal peace in nature. To her, death is nature.
Edwin Arlington Robinson wrote the poem “Richard Cory” which is a fine example of envy. What you see is not always what you get. The poem states, “In fine, we thought he was everything to make us wish that we were in his place.” This line tells
the reader that Richard Cory was a well know, well respected man of the community, but the people were naive to think that with riches and power comes happiness. They wanted to be like him so bad that their struggle was to attempt to live the lifestyle he was living. “So on we worked, and waited for the light and went without meat and cursed the bread,” is a perfect example of the lengths people will go to attain what they perceive is the ideal life. However, the last sentence states “And Richard Cory, one calm summer night, went home and put a bullet through his head.” All is never what it seems.
In the poem “The Sad Children’s Story”, written by Grace Paley, it describes the hardships our children’s children will have to overcome due to the careless actions of their elders. It also exemplifies the long-term effects of the devastation of war, and the attitude that prevails even today that whomever causes that devastation will not have to answer to those who will suffer from it. “This house is a wreck …Your papers are all over the place, the chairs are covered with books, and look, brown leaves are pilled on the floor under the wandering Jews.” This stanza illustrates what happens when matters get out of control. For example, the house is a wreck due to the uncontrollable effect of war. “Your face is a wreck…There are lines all over your face, your necks like curious turtles. Why did you let yourself go? Where are you going without us?” The face and the lines symbolize that the person is old and aged beyond his years. The necks like curious turtles symbolize a person hiding and ashamed of their actions. When the children ask why did you let yourself go and where are you going, they are really trying to say how can you leave us without rectifying what you have done and why are you
leaving us here alone to deal with your disaster. “The world is a wreck…there are bombs all over the place there’s no water the fields are poisoned,” is the visual image of the horrendous outcome of war. “Why did you leave things like this?” begs an answer. The whole poem deals with, regardless of what happens, how does one generation explain what they did to the generations to come? What has happened is that the children of the people who allowed the war to take place, are bringing home their children only to find destruction and no explanation. The poem can be summed up in the last sentence, “Where can we go said the children, what can we say to our children.”
Life is a struggle. Life is not easy. The three poems show and define the frailty of man and his environment. We strive to live the good life, be the good person, and do the right things, but, more often than not, we fail. There are no easy, if any, answers. We go through life by living one day at a time, and hopefully we will learn from our mistakes.