Study Guide

First Fig Language and Communication

By Edna St. Vincent Millay

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Language and Communication

Sure, "First Fig" is intended to announce the speaker's personal achievements, but it's also a message to the world—her world, that is. And that world divides into two categories: friends and foes. How they receive her message—as an audacious and charming status update from a BFF or an all-too-annoying brag from a frenemy—depends on how her audience interprets her language. Even the clarity of her diction (the ease of her word choice) becomes a clue. Don't be fooled—our poet isn't choosing simple words because she hasn't made it to the polysyllabic part of the dictionary. Nope. This is definitely a communicative gesture, one intended to sound just as simple and as provocative as it actually does.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. How might this poem be read differently by the speaker's friends and her foes? 
  2. Do you think that Millay intends this poem to be a brag? Why or why not? 
  3. Do you think that Millay intends to charm her readers? Why or why not? 
  4. How would this poem be different if it used very complicated turns of phrase?

Chew on This

The simple words of this poem undercut the speaker's intention to sound special, because they seem ordinary. Extraordinatudinous.

The simple words of this poem reinforce the speaker's claim to extraordinariness by delivering her message with complete clarity. Got it?

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