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Poetry analysis: “America” by Tony Hoagland

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Throughout life human beings usually find messages underneath the surface, which cannot be seen by the naked eye. In literature this is sometimes done through the use of metaphors by using specific words when relating two inanimate objects. A writer might use metaphors in order to hide these messages and not be completely obvious. In the poem “America”, by Tony Hoagland, specific diction is used in metaphors in order to expose corruption in American society.

The poem begins with a ” student” (1) symbolizing the innocence of the person being corrupted such as our youth. By using the word “student” the writer may want to express the feeling that this corruption is due to the fact that one is still learning and one shall learn to not be corrupt. This choice of wording could also be used in order the show the point that one is corrupted through influences like a “student” learns and is influence by his teachers. Then the author goes on to describe the “student” as one with “blue hair” (1) which could have been used in the place of red in order to not express that this corruption lead to anger but remain s to be calm. Then the description of a “tongue stud” represents more of a sexual corruption. Although this contradicts the use of the word “student” due to the innocence surrounding the word it assists in the corruption through influence because sex is greatly influenced by others including teachers.

The speaker goes on to tell you how the “student” feels as if he is being “buried alive” by being “captured and suffocated in the folds/ of the thick satin quilt of America” (9, 10). This is claiming that corruption in America is a “satin quilt”. It is like satin because it is soft on the outside and then itchy and scratchy on the inside and does not prevent cold from coming in or in other words permits evil to come in. Then you have the word quilt used which usually represents love and care and when one uses a quilt it is put on top of everything else so it is seen. So in this metaphor there is a contradiction of two kinds of corruption one being a corruption disguised and deceitful and the other being one clearly seen yet both are taking the same action, which is suffocating the student through the corruption.

It is through metaphoric corruption that the author again points out an ultimate corruption. The author goes on to talk about the speaker’s father and corruption:

” . . . I remember that when I stabbed my father in the dream last night,

It was not blood but money

That gushed out of him, bright green hundred-dollar bills

Spilling from his wounds, and, . . .

He gasped, “thank god – those Ben franklins were

Clogging up my heart–“”(12-17)

Now the writer uses the word stabbed because when one is stabbed the inside of the body is exposed and truth can be seen. The author did not use shot because a bullet usually stays in side the body, not fully exposing the inside or truth. The use of the word father represents the student grown up after being influence through out his youth. On the other hand the father could represent America itself, which has gone from being young, studious, and influential to mature and corrupt. When stating that it is just a dream the writer is trying to insist that the speaker only wishes what he remembers imagining in his dream. This implies that it did not occur and that there is still corruption in America. Then when said, “Not blood but money/ that gushed . . . bright green hundred- dollar bills” (12-13) it is insisting that money is the cause of the infectious corruption.

This corruption is “infectious and/or contagious by stating that it is bright green for usually bright green is implying disease and infection. Then he relates money to blood by saying it gushed out which implies that it was flowing through out the body insisting that it is due to the corruption. Then the writer goes on to use the words “clogged up my heart” (17) which could be implying that this money which has caused this corruption is so old and has been their for so long that it has stopped up his insides so much so that there is nothing else but. So when the father said “thank god . . .” (16) it is suggesting that some may wish to not be corrupted like this by money but still are like father to the point where they can die b/c it stopped up their heart. Also the author chose to use the heart and not the brain because the heart implies purity and no non-truth.

The writer Tony Hoagland uses specific diction in his metaphors in the poem “America” to imply that there is corruption in American society. The opinion expresse ue to these metaphors is that there is a lot of corruption in the united states, so much that sometimes that one corrupt action contradicts another. This has possibly been caused by America itself growing up to fast and being influence by too many; as well as its people.

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