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Life and Death

Symbol Analysis

Though many elements of this poem are ambiguous, we know that there is some sort of collaboration taking place between the speaker’s life and the anger she feels. At times, these two concepts (life and anger) are separate entities. Other times, they are united. In any case, the concept of life weaves its way in and out of the poem.

  • Line 1: The reference here to "My Life" is personified, because it is an abstracted concept that is treated as if it were able to stand like a person.
  • Lines 3, 5-7, 13-14, 17, 21-22: These lines contain references to "The Owner," "Master," "He," "Him, "His," and "Us," "We" and "Our." This is the central personification of the poem, and most people argue that they all refer to the same entity. The critics disagree on who or what the speaker is referencing. Is it the speaker’s anger? Is it the poet or artist within the speaker? Is it art itself? If it’s an abstract concept (like art), feeling (like anger), or some other intangible thing, then it would be personification. If it refers to a real, live person, then it wouldn’t be – these things get a little tricky sometimes. Depending on you interpretation, the language can do different things for you.
  • Line 13: In this line we see "Night’ and "Day" contrasted with one another. In this way, we understand "Night" to be a symbol for death, and "Day" to be a symbol for life. We get the sense that our speaker is approaching death at this point, her day’s work being done.

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