American Literature-Marge Piercy’s poem “What’s That Smell in the Kitchen?”
How figurative language is used in the poem to evoke vivid images.
In the poem “What’s That Smell in the Kitchen?” Piercy analyzes her mundane routine duties as an exhausted housewife; how women sometimes feel unworthy due to the behavior of men. Though in this poem, speaker does not introduce herself as a homemaker, but tells the reader about one specific woman as an example on behalf of the feelings of all women. In the beginning of “What’s That Smell in the Kitchen?” author points out that dinners are being burnt all over America. This not only gives a reader the central idea of the poem but also creates curiosity to read further to know the reason. in the next four lines the author explains foods that are usually cooked in the particular cities of United States. This paints a sensory and aromatic picture in readers’ mind. As the poem progresses the author stresses the issue by repeating and highlighting the same point and includes another phrase, — women are burning / food they’re supposed to bring with calico / smile on platters glittering like wax (lines 6-8) — this ironic statement creates an impression of a very “false” woman, like a mechanical puppet or person or even a perfect and faultless “model mom” like the character of June Cleaver.
What central idea (theme) do you see in the poet’s specific uses of simile, symbolism, and imagery?
“Women are burning dinners all across America . . . steaks in Chicago haddock in Providence, and it says, all over America, women are burning food they’re supposed to bring with calico smile on platters glittering like wax (Piercy, 2009).” All these statements compel us to think about the condition of women in society in this particular era. For instance, we may discuss gender-role constructs. Seen differently, it constructs as the formulation of gender roles in society, comparing gender-role at present, how we construct the roles that are expected from men and women in the current society. Despite the fact that the condition of women has improved much since then, do men and women get paid equally for the same work? Perhaps not. It means, definitely we do not treat women equally with men, and women are expected more to care for the home, even at present, than perhaps there should be, and this not necessarily the case in every marriage and relationship. We also haven’t completely ignored the difference of the expectation of the men and the women.
In the absence of equal opportunity, speaker in this poem and women in general are angry about it. This can be felt in this line also “Carbonized despair presses like a clinker / from a barbecue against the back of her eyes.” This undoubtedly shows an anger of a person. Anger is definitely a mood that would develop throughout in this poem (Stevens, n.d.).
In Themes in Contemporary American Literature– what roles do Gender, Society, and Economics play in the two works you’ve chosen?
John Steinbeck’s ‘The Grapes of Wrath — Realism’
The novel, written during Great Depression, focuses on the Joads. It is an underprivileged family of tenant farmers that moved away from their Oklahoma home due to drought, economic crises, changes in agriculture industry and bank’s legal proceeding rendering tenant farmers unemployed. The novel is all about the lives of the people, affected by the economic crisis of the time. This fiction examines the lives of the most exploited citizens of the society.
Fitzgerald’s ‘The Great Gatsby — Modernism’
The Great Gatsby is a critical analysis of social history of America during the Roaring Twenties. This particular time is remembered for outstanding economic well-being. Great Gatsby is widely considered as a narrative about the collapse of class differences contrary to modern economy. It was not based on social or economic status and inherited position but on innovation and the capability of meeting constantly changing consumer needs. Fitzgerald discusses gender roles quite conservatively. He writes in his novel, the purpose of men’s earning is to provide women. Men are superior to women, particularly in the case of Tom, who maintains his physical power to dominate them.
Piercy, M. (2009). What’s that smell in the kitchen. In R. Gwynn. (Ed.), Poetry: A Pocket Anthology (6th ed., pp. 38-339). New York: Pearson.
Stevens, J. (n.d.). John Stevens – Marge piercy what’s that smell in the kitchen. Retrieved from All Readable: http://www.allreadable.com/6fa7975l
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