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Mary Oliver's Whelks

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Mary Oliver's Whelks Mary Oliver's poem, Whelks, can easily be identified as a Mary Oliver poem. Whelks describes nature in an attempt to illustrate an issue that is all too "human being." Simply, Oliver is using nature to communicate the desire to discover her true self. In lines 12-17, Oliver states that she herself is suffering from the universal dilemma of knowing that there is something more to herself than she is aware. For the duration of her life she has been "restless" because there has always been something missing, but she is not entirely sure of what exactly. However, she feels that "there is something more wonderful than gloss." This statement insinuates that Oliver knows that her true self is not what appears on the outside. ...read more.


Oliver is drawing a parallel between herself and the whelks because this is how she is to go about finding what lies deep within her soul. The only way to know what is inside of a whelk is for is to be cracked open. Whelks accomplish this themselves by being "rubbed so long against the world." Oliver has to experience the world and live life in order to respond to it, and in turn respond to herself. It is not until Oliver knows her feelings about her experiences that she can be introduced to what lies beneath the "gloss." In line 28 Oliver realizes that her link is the whelk. She speaks of how she picks it up and holds it every time she sees one. Occasionally she has a moment in which she truly understands what she wants out of life like in lines 31-36. ...read more.


Without Oliver's voice, the connection between her and the whelks would not exist and the poem would merely be a wonderful picture of an Oceanside stroll, perhaps not even that. In her reflection in Orion magazine, Oliver speaks of being a stranger to herself in her younger years. Her interests were to study herself as William Wordsworth did. Whelks is a good example of how Oliver intends to study herself. Since she was a little girl, Oliver has connected with nature. Now she is using nature as a means of discovering herself. Her understanding of nature will help her draw parallels to herself as she has accomplished in this particular poem. Oliver's poetry is a process by which she is attempting to put her own experiences to paper and thus understanding them on a greater level. According to Whelks the only way to discover oneself is to understand one's experiences. ...read more.

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