In the poem "Facing It" by Yusef Komunyakaa, the author uses first person narration, metaphor, simile

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Komuyakaa’s Expression of Self in Facing It

        In the poem “Facing It” by Yusef Komunyakaa, the author uses first person narration, metaphor, simile, images of light and darkness, personification, allusion and word connotation in order to convey to his detached audience the intimate experience of making his pilgrimage to the Vietnam War Veteran’s Memorial in Washington DC. For Komunyakaa, an African American Writer and Vietnam Veteran, the emotions associated with the memorial are complex, sad, disheartening, and cherished. Through the use of these various literary devices, Komunyakaa is not only able to share his experience with his audience, but to draw the audience into the narrative of the poem, and place the realities of war inside the lives and hearts of his audience.

On the surface, Yusef Komuyakaa’s “Facing It” is the first-person account of Komunyakaa’s own pilgrimage to the Vietnam Memorial. Komunyakaa uses a first person narrator, because this is certainly his story, and as such he does not wish to detach himself from the narrative. Also, the first person narration makes the story more vivid and real for the audience by pulling us closer to the story through intimacy with the narrator. Through the use of the “I” the audience is able to identify with, and relate to the emotions that the narrator of the poem—that is, Komunyakka—experiences.

My black face fades,
hiding inside the black granite.
I said I wouldn't,
dammit: No tears.
I'm stone. I'm flesh.

        We immediately understand that the narrator is faced, most likely for the first time, with the names of his comrades who had fallen in battle. This emotion is best conveyed through the use of the first person narration—that is, the “I”—within the poem. By placing himself within the poem, Komunyakaa has, in effect, placed his audience within the poem as well.

        The image of Komunyakaa’s face “hiding inside the black granite” is significant as well. It is as if he feels as though he should be inside the wall with all of the other men that he once knew. This thought permeates the poem, as the narrator explains how when he turns one way, “the stone lets [him] go”, but as he turns another, he is back inside it again. He also explains that he is “half-expecting to find [his name] in letters like smoke” on the wall. With these images, Komunyakka is able to express to the audience his own realization that any one of the names on the wall could have easily been his own.  The audience shares this experience with him through the first person narration.

        Metaphor and simile are also used in conveying emotion to the audience. In saying, “I'm stone. I'm flesh.” Komunayakaa does not opt for a literal meaning, but a metaphorical one. We know that the narrator doesn’t actually perceive himself as stone. Rather, the meaning here is twofold. On one hand, he speaks of his reflection in the stone—that is, the stone version of himself, which looks back at him. On the other hand, he wishes for a “stone” heart, that he might be able to block out the emotions that threaten to overwhelm him, and fight away tears. Nor is he mere “flesh,” but a living breathing person, with complex emotions an feelings. “I’m flesh” refers more to a general sense of limp helplessness than a literal reference to his own flesh.

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My clouded reflection eyes me
like a bird of prey, the profile of night
slanted against morning.

        The simile “like a bird of prey,” conveys the patriotic image of the bald eagle—an American symbol of freedom and national strength. Here however, it is a hunter with a keen eye. That his own reflection “eyes [him] like a bird of prey” conveys a twofold meaning. The first is that very image of America as a hunter, as it might have been portrayed during the Vietnam War; the second, perhaps more intimate expression, is that of the narrator searching, hunting for himself in ...

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