An Analysis of The Secretary Chant by Marge Piercy
Marge Piercy’s poem “The Secretary Chant” contains a number of traits that are intended to captivate the reader’s attention. As is true of every poetry, the words convey more meaning than they appear to. Each line is crafted with a specific purpose in mind. Every word has value, and the poem would not have the same impact if it were not for them. “My hips are the size of a desk.” The opening line of the poem serves as a setting for the rest of the poem by creating the mood. She begins by imagining a desk as her hips, which she then moves about on.
What comes to mind when you think of a desk is what you think of first.
It is the location where all materials will be placed out and where all work will be completed.
In the poetry, analogies are used to compare human parts to office supplies, among other things.
- She believes she is responsible for everything and that she is the basis for all employees in the apparent office setting.
- Rubber bands hold my hair in place.” These two sentences have a variety of interpretations.
- These phrases have a deeper significance than they appear on the surface.
- The purpose of these items is to keep everything together.
- Without her, the rest of the workplace would be nothing more than a jumble of papers and items.
- These words are extremely crucial to the poem’s overall meaning.
- The seventh and fourteenth lines of the poem have a number of words that are paired together in pairs.
It’s almost as though the sounds are interfering with the text, giving it a more mechanical vibe overall.
The first is a contrast between her head and a haphazardly ordered file….
Afterwards, Piercy writes, “My brain is a switchboard, where crossed wires crackle.” A secretary in an office context is likely to be responsible for more than one individual, all of whom she must maintain organized.
Then, after the second set of onomatopoeias, Piercy continues, “Swollen, hefty, rectangular I am about to be delivered of a baby Xerox machine,” which is a play on words.
Piercy was referring to the fact that she believes women would never be able to achieve more than the status of secretary.
In addition, she uses the name Xerox because the only thing a Xerox machine was used for was generating duplicates of documents.
Towards the end of the poem, the reader can deduce the general meaning of the poem.
Piercy composed this as a way of expressing herself.
When she penned the poem in 1973, women were still fighting for equality in the workplace against males.
The poem has a literal meaning as well as an underlying message to convey.
She believes that women are not treated equally in the workplace, and she use metaphors and personification to assist communicate her arguments. The onomatopoeias serve to break up the body of the poem, and the result is to make the poem appear even more gloomy than it really is.
The Secretary Chant Summary – eNotes.com
The eNotes Editorial team last updated this page on October 26, 2018. The total number of words in this sentence is 1127. Marge Piercy’s short story “The Secretary Chant,” written in the United States, is representative of her body of work in many respects, notably in terms of its unmistakably feminist point of view. A basic, clear, yet frequently humorous approach is employed in the writing of the poem, which stresses the use of amusing, unusual, yet in some ways dismal metaphors to imply. Marge Piercy’s short story “The Secretary Chant,” written in the United States, is representative of her body of work in many respects, notably in terms of its unmistakably feminist point of view.
- The use of humor in the poem contributes to the work’s effectiveness; a more strident, more overtly “propagandistic” tone would have been less effective, based on my observations.
- This is something that her work provides her with little chance to do.
- In fact, the speaker’s head, heart, and soul are never clearly stated in the piece, almost as if they don’t exist anymore.
- Maybe the speaker’s mind, dulled by repetitive work, strives to be imaginative, but fails miserably at times.
- In either case, whether the metaphors are considered as humorous or as overdone, they convey information about the characteristics of the speaker’s thought process.
- She is almost literally becoming into the lifeless, inert objects with which she works.
- Her hips, for example, are more than just like a desk: they are a “area desk” (1; emphasis added).
- By use metaphors rather than similes, the speaker argues that she is losing her sense of self-determination and independence.
Although the poem appears to suggest that this is a fate experienced primarily by female secretaries, many readers (such as the male factory workers or construction workers who were so common at the time the poem was written in the 1970s) have most likely experienced the same feelings about their jobs at some point in their lives.
- Almost each reader will be able to identify with some of the fundamental emotions expressed in this poem.
- For example, the comparison of the hips to a desk takes a portion of the female anatomy that is particularly connected with pleasure and reproduction and associates it with monotony and a lack of life experience.
- Hair, which is frequently linked with glossy life and sensual beauty, is here only compared to stringy “rubber bands” in this illustration (4).
- As a result, they are connected with reproduction rather than with life.
- Piercy’s poetry, on the other hand, is a type of warped blazon that serves as a sarcastic self-description of sorts.
- To the contrary, she comes off as strange and nearly grotesque instead of incredibly appealing.
- Her (perhaps forced) dedication to her career deprives her of her freedom and happiness.
She does not see herself to be a person, but rather as a body—as simple flesh rather than a true spirit.
To illustrate how dead she feels on the inside, she employs metaphors linked with fertility, reproduction, and childbirth, which is ironic given her age: …swollen, hefty, and rectangular, my navel looks like a reject button…I am going to be deliveredof a baby Xerox machine….
She has retained enough of her individuality of spirit to sarcastically object to her metamorphosis into a sort of human machine in the process.
(21-24) Interestingly, no sooner does the speaker envisage giving birth (ironically) to a copying machine than she appears to envision a form of death, or at the very least a new level in the dehumanization of the machine.
The very last word in the last lines is the most important word in the entire passage: woman.
Because secretarial positions were nearly exclusively occupied by women during the time period in which the poem was written, the speaker believes that she has been bound to the life she depicts.
In a way, her choice was decided by the few career opportunities that were accessible to women at the time.
Alternatively, she may believe that she is being forced to remain in that persona indefinitely.
Perhaps she wishes to draw attention to the letterwin in each and every line of the previous phrase.
Perhaps she is implying that her professional responsibilities, such as filing, have had such an impact on her mental health that she is no longer functioning as she should.
Alternatively, thewonceis a dash of sarcasm, or perhaps a last flourish of wit, intelligence, or originality to round off the sentence. Whichever of these interpretations the reader prefers, the poem concludes in a way that appears to be delicately thought-provoking in its subtleness.
“The Secretary Chant” by Marge Piercy – 822 Words
eNotes Editorial last updated this page on October 26, 2018. 1127 words in total Marge Piercy’s short story “The Secretary Chant,” written in the United States, is representative of her body of work in several respects, notably in terms of its distinctly feminist point of view. To imply these ideas, the poem is written in a straightforward, logical, yet sometimes whimsical language that stresses amusing and odd analogies that are, at times, gloomy. Marge Piercy’s short story “The Secretary Chant,” written in the United States, is representative of her body of work in several respects, notably in terms of its distinctly feminist point of view.
- Because of the poem’s humorous tone, it is likely that it would have been less successful if it had been written in a more strident, more overtly “propagandistic” vein.
- This is something that her work provides her with little chance to convey.
- In fact, this emphasis on the body continues throughout most of the rest of the work; the speaker’s head, heart, and soul are never directly stated, almost as if they don’t exist any longer.
- Maybe the speaker’s mind, dulled by repetitive work, attempts to be imaginative, but fails miserably at times.
- It doesn’t matter if the metaphors are perceived as clever or as overdone; they all convey information about the speaker’s mental state.
- With each passing day, she is becoming more and more like the lifeless, inanimate objects she works with.
- “She has hips that look like a desk,” she says.
She does not just mimic her hair; rather, she ” forms ” her hair using rubber bands (4; emphasis added).
To put it another way, her job has taken over her life in the most fundamental way, and she has been fully consumed by it.
This means that sentiments that transcend any specific period, location, occupation, or gender are addressed in the poetry.
Every one of these analogies is thought-provoking in and of itself.
“Chains of paper clips” (3) are suspended from the speaker’s ears, rather than the traditional earrings that may be associated with attractiveness, and are associated with ephemeral, transient attachments.
It appears like the speaker’s breasts are “wells of mimeograph ink,” rather than being filled with life-giving milk (5).
On the contrary, the poem is almost an allusion to “blazon” poetry, which was particularly popular during the Renaissance and in which a speaker (typically male) would describe the beauty of an attractive person (typically female) by describing every (or nearly every) aspect of her attractive body, such as hair, eyelashes, lips and so on.
- Clearly, the female speaker does not consider herself to be attractive in any way.
- The poet’s voice becomes less and less human with each new line added to the poem, until she is reduced to the status of a simple (and ugly) thing.
- Take, for example, the fact that she refers to her “head” rather than her “brain,” “mind,” or “psyche” (8-9).
- As a result, she begins to sound like a machine, saying “Buzz.
- Using metaphors connected with fertility, reproduction, and birthing to describe how she feels on the inside, she manages to convey how she feels dead: …swollen, hefty, and rectangular…I am going to be deliveredof a baby Xerox machine, and my navel is a reject button….
- She has retained enough of her individuality of spirit to sarcastically object to her metamorphosis into a sort of human robot.
Because I used to be a woman, I should be filed under W.
It is the very last word, “woman,” that is the most important in the concluding words.
As secretary occupations were almost exclusively held by women during the time period in which the poem was written, the speaker believes that she has been bound to the life she depicts in the poem.
Because of the restricted work opportunities open to her, she was forced to make a decision.
Alternatively, she may believe that she is being forced to remain in that persona indefinitely if she does not change.
Perhaps she wishes to draw attention to the letterwin in each and every line of the previous paragraph.
Perhaps she is implying that her professional responsibilities, such as filing, have had such an impact on her mental health that she is no longer functioning as well as she would want to.
It’s possible that thewonceis a last flourish of wit, ingenuity, or inventiveness, or that thewonceis a sarcastic undertone. Whichever of these interpretations the reader prefers, the poem concludes in a way that appears to be delicately thought-provoking in its subtlety.
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12The Power of Sound: An Examination of the Use of Sound in a Selection of Dramatic Texts Beau F. is a second-year English major. Clemson University’s Spring 2005 commencement address 3 In literature, poetry is characterised by the use of delicate subtleties of language in its composition. Whereas prose authors have the luxury of time to build stories and characters, the compact form of poetry pushes poets to make optimal use of all of the qualities of the language available to them at the time of composition.
“The Secretary Chant,” by Marge Piercy, and “Player Piano,” by John Updike, are two poems that highlight the use of this literary device.
The Secretary Chant” is a poem by Marge Piercy that makes use of sound in several ways, including the use of onomatopoeia in some sections of the poem to imitate the noises of the office.
In particular, the use of onomatopoeia to convey the picture of a woman becoming a machine can be seen in two lines in the second stanza.
Click,” says line seven, and “Zing.
7Piercy is aiming to portray the speaker as a woman who has been dehumanized by her profession by portraying her as a woman crossed with office equipment.
Indeed, they are the noises of the machinery that surround the secretary throughout the day as she goes about her business as a secretary.
In “Player Piano,” Updike obviously heeds the advice of the critics.
‘My stick fingers click with a snicker/And, laughing, they knuckle the keys.’ These are the opening two lines of a poem by Robert Frost.
10 The repeated “-ick” sound in the opening line is a representation of the noise made by the player piano’s components as they prepare to strike the keys of the instrument.
It is via this contrast that the poem achieves its realistic portrayal of the setting.
12Piercy approximates the voice of a robot by using quick bursts of sound with a flat tone, similar to that of a computer.
She is plainly a human secretary, but her voice sounds machine-like since her humanity has been stripped away by the monotonous and mechanical activities that she must perform on a daily basis for her employer.
The poem’s pace is almost like a musical accompaniment to the reader (Meyer 865).
14 In line 11, he reinforces the idea that the piano is uncontrollable by humans through the use of a cacophonous beat.
The speaker of the poem, however, does not struggle to deliver this sentence, which is difficult for a human reader to comprehend.
15 In conclusion, the use of sound in poetry may assist in bringing ideas to the forefront and making images more vivid.
Through the use of the sounds of words and the interaction of these sounds, a skilled poet can facilitate a more complete grasp of the topics that are being proposed.
Michael Meyer is the author of this work.
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Michael Syrotinsky and Ian Maclachlan are the authors of this work. Sensual Reading: New Approaches to Reading in Relation to the Senses is a collection of essays on the subject of sensual reading. The Associated University Presses published a book in 2001 called