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Cheng's poem "Reservist": An analysis

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Introduction

Reservist: An analysis What would we do if we were stuck doing the same things years on end with no respite? What if what we did was futile and showed no signs of bringing any changes? Cheng presents a similar picture in his poem. Although the poem is metaphoric, has many layers and can meaning anything from war to life itself, the title of the poem makes many things clear for us: firstly that the persona is one of the reservists, the military reserves. Secondly that the enforced labor is that of the yearly training that is forced upon them and which results in nothing. The poem begins with Cheng comparing the Singaporean government with a feudalistic system. ...read more.

Middle

The repetition of the word "same" fills a similar purpose. The inclusion of phrases such as "children placed on carousels they cannot get off from" and "borne along through somebody's expensive fantasyland" suggests that the persona has no power over where he, or they, go and thus fall into a monotonous repetition of events in upon them by the "lordship", or, the government of Singapore. The "horrors" may imply to the tedium and the repetitions. Another theme explored in the poem is age. "Creaking bones", "suppressed grunts", "pot bellies" and even the tucking in of those tummies with "great finesse", showing that they have had those for quite some time hints at a middle-aged person. ...read more.

Conclusion

Is it life that Cheng is talking about and not just the training? Rolled over lines is another frequently used device. It is used variously to suggest the placement, displacement, unity and movements at different places in the poem. The ending of the poem, though seeming to end on a good note, there seems to be a great deal of uncertainty as they "stumble" onto new paths. There is also a newfound resoluteness in the persona, highlighted by the repetition of "will". Also the hope that has arisen seems to hint at an ending to the monotony. Cheng presents doubts and uncertainties that we may all be subject to to light. It is a cleverly constructed poem and a work of art. It is truly interesting to read this poem and to uncover its many layers. ...read more.

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