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Material Objects

Symbol Analysis

"One Art" approaches loss in a rather sidelong manner; it doesn’t dive straight in and attack the big issues, like the loss of a home or a loved one, but instead begins with the little things that we lose here and there. In so doing, Bishop aligns these unimportant possessions with the more significant things we "own." As the poem goes on, the objects mentioned become more and more meaningful, as does their loss. We see by the end that the loss of simple objects, like a key or a watch, becomes an extended metaphor for the loss of other things the poet loves, such as her past homes or lovers.

  • Lines 2-3: The poet personifies the lost objects, stating that they "seem filled with the intent/ to be lost" (1.2-3); that is to say, they want to get lost.
  • Lines 4-5: "Lost door keys" (2.4) are mentioned alongside misspent hours, and we see that objects and more abstract things, like time, are viewed equivalently here.
  • Line 10: The poet mentions casually that she lost her mother’s watch – but there’s more going on here than meets the eye. She’s already getting into the territory of emotionally significant objects, and we can be sure that the watch is a symbol for her relationship with her mother.

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