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One Flesh

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"One Flesh" Elizabeth Jennings has produced this poem with an extraordinarily deep meaning that has seldom been seen in other poems of this genre. The poem in itself is pessimistic while the message is the exact opposite. The first thing that I wish to discuss is the sole title of this poem. It is of great significance because it can be related to several times within the poem. One Flesh is biblical and it is meant to say that when a man (or woman) marries, he or she becomes one with the other. In actual fact this poem can be compared to William Shakespeare's 116th sonnet. Before we actually commence with the poem there are a few facts about Elizabeth that we should include as they may be useful later on when interpreting this poem. Elizabeth was a well-educated woman who was born in 1926 and died just three years ago. She worked in publishing and as a librarian. Most of her poems were based on spiritual and emotional topics and they were often quite person as is "One Flesh". Her poems included suffering, relationships, loneliness and religious faith. This is highly peculiar because "One Flesh" has every single one of those characteristics. Our first concern before explaining the actual meaning of the poem is the diction used. We can clearly observe that it is simple. This could be linked to the way in which Elizabeth has decided to demonstrate a very boring lifestyle. This will help her bring her point across to the reader as she shares this universal feeling. She has also used a special tone that has been used to fortify her point of view. ...read more.


It is as if they are waiting for something to happen for them to go back to that stage again. They are too lazy to try and do it themselves. It is as if they are waiting for God to make them happy again. But God will not do this. He does not interfere with people's lives in this way. He knows very well that they can do this themselves. It is as if they are waiting at the station for a train that never comes in. They are simply existing instead of living their lives. That is one of the biggest crimes you can do to yourself. This is an enjambment which gives the reader an air of importance to these few words because they are what Jennings uses as criticism against her parents. The colon in the middle of the line means that an explanation will follow. "...the book he holds unread". This proves to us that the man has not given up hope just yet. His mind is still fighting it even if he is concealing it. The reason why he is hiding it is perhaps because he feels men should not be having these thoughts. He is also dreaming of passion, romance and excitement. He is not happy with the boring life they now lead. He is also remembering the good old times. But like a true man, he will not reveal his feelings. From the tone we can establish that Jennings is blaming him greatly for being so closed up. This is the irony. They are both thinking of the same thing and yet they lack the communication which could save their lives from freezing up completely. ...read more.


Yet again we have the image of their bodies getting old while their minds remain younger than always. "These two" is a controversy to the title because they have now become two instead of one. It is the opposite of the bible's teachings. "who are my father and mother" Elizabeth Jennings tells us this for the first time in this poem that they are related and this explains why she has been so concerned about these two people. "Whose fire from which I came, has now grown cold?" This is a very significant ending. The message here closes the curtains on the entire poem. Elizabeth uses a caesura to balance opposite ideas and create drama, she uses powerful diction, and she uses images of passion and death and ends with a rhetorical question. All in all: a very powerful ending. The fire, of course, refers to the passion they once had and which created the poet. "now grown cold" is the image of death linked to the present tense. It is more of a statement than a question and yet she made it into a question so that we, the readers, can meditate on why we think this fire has grown cold. Jennings forces us to agree with her and think that this is a very strange occurrence that one would not have expected. This poem is full of messages about passion and age, how they are only connected physically and not mentally, how two people who were once 'one' have been separated because their minds have began to accept that their bodies are growing too old for further passion. Elizabeth Jennings described her parents with a vast amount of feeling of sympathy and criticism. ...read more.

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A well written essay which offers detailed analysis of the poem. Good cross referencing with Shakespeare, accurate use of literary and linguistic terminology and consideration of various interpretations of the poem.

Marked by teacher Katie Dixon 16/07/2013

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