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Analyzing the poem “Guilt” by Leona Gom

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The poem, “Guilt,” by Leona Gom addresses four examples of memories that bear a burden of guilt within them which the narrator can’t get rid of. In this poem, the narrator, who is speaking in the second person, is most likely a female because a mother usually doesn’t give a set of dishes to a male.

The structural layout in this poem suggests that a progression of ideas is taking place. The poem is divided into two stanzas; the first stanza indicates struggle and conflict, while the second stanza, on the other hand, indicates despair and is relatively smaller than the first stanza. The purpose of this is to show how big the burden of guilt the narrator is carrying around.

In the first line of the second stanza, there is a metaphor in, “thousands of them, little knots.” The narrator relates in this line the thousands of guilt feelings to the knots that you can’t “shake loose” because they are very tight and there are thousands of them tied together. She experiences shock and guilt as she says, “whenever you think / you are not a bad person, there / they come, little lumps of guilt.” In these lines, she describes how big burdens of guilt never leave you and come up to you whenever you think you are not a bad person. There is a metaphor in, “little lumps of guilt.” The narrator compares the big burdens of guilt to lumps likes tumors or other swellings in the body. In the last line of the poem, there is a simile in, “like doctors, keeping you sick.”

The narrator uses personification to compare the feelings of guilt to doctors who are keeping you sick. Because she describes the feelings of guilt as lumps in your body that can never be cured, doctors will keep saying that you are sick. There might be a positive sign about this statement in that we are supposed to carry those feelings of guilt with us and the lump or tumor that is being carried around is a benign tumor. Carrying this lump around with us allows us to own up to and learn from our mistakes. It gives us a chance to make amends, to do things differently next time, to come to a better understanding of ourselves, to forgive ourselves.

The poem communicates an attitude about imagination and reality. The choice of certain words and certain details makes it clear that the speaker prefers imagination but is aware of reality. Initially, when the narrator describes “her hurt face turning away. / the best friend you accused of.” The words “hurt face” and “accused of” give the feeling of distress and perhaps fear or sorrow. This tone of distress, fear and sorrow remains throughout the poem. For example, in the second stanza, the narrator says,

“It’s too late now to say you’re sorry.” This gives an impression of remorse, regret and guilt expressed by the narrator.

Gom uses alliteration when the narrator describes the mother with, “her hurt face turning away.” She used the letter H in the first two words to emphasize how the mother’s feeling is being hurt by the narrator.

Imagery is used throughout the poem and is expressed with nouns and adjectives like “set of dishes,” “move around,” “argument with your father,” “finding it in your room,” “little knots,” and “daily rounds.” This use of imagery assists in the creation of the remorse, sorrow, and guilt throughout the poem.

The poem, “Guilt,” by Leona Gom lists four specific incidents that have hurt others and resulted in guilty feelings. Guilt is described as a series of little knots that can’t be removed from memory; reminders that what was said or done can t be taken back. There is a positive message in that carrying guilt around allows us to own up to and learn from our mistakes. It gives chance to make amends, to do things in a different way next time, to come to a better understanding of ourselves, to forgive ourselves, and to keep us from being conceited.

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