Study Guide

Hanging Fire Coming of Age

By Audre Lorde

Coming of Age

At its heart, "Hanging Fire" is all about what it means to be a teenager. Or, in other words, it's about what it's like to be in that inbetween-y stage where you're no longer a kid, but you're definitely not an adult either. (Britney Spears, anyone?) Sure, being a teenager means first boyfriends and school dances and braces, but it can also be a darker time, in which we feel precarious in the world—and the world feels dangerous to us. "Hanging Fire" understands the trials and tribulations of coming of age, whether that means dealing with pimples and school-related disappointments, or beginning to enter the adult world and dealing with that greatest adult problem of all: death.

Questions About Coming of Age

  1. Do you think that the speaker's worries are pretty average for a teenager? Or do you think that she has some serious problems? Why?
  2. How might the speaker's concerns be different if her mom weren't always "in the bedroom / with the door closed"?
  3. Does the speaker seem whiny to you? Or does she have some legitimate beef with the world? Why do you think so?
  4. What clique do you think the speaker was in in middle school? Was she a Mathlete? A goth girl? What parts of the poem give you your ideas?

Chew on This

Nothing too groundbreaking to see here, folks—the speaker of "Hanging Fire" is just your average teenager.

The speaker of "Hanging Fire" has some serious issues and needs to see a therapist stat; no 14-year-old should be this focused on death.

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