The process of finding oneself requires the motivation of the individual to reach out and look within. The following poems: “Queens, 1963,” “Theme for English B,” “Fork,” and “this morning (for the girls of eastern high school),” all have this universal theme in common, that is, the complicated procedure of taking a deeper look and acknowledging oneself. In order to fully achieve this awareness of self, one must go through stages of guidance. This acknowledgement is most commonly realized during circumstances such as social out casting and diversity.
Racial diversity and segregation may cause individuals to look deep within to find who they truly are, and to furthermore block out the negative and ignorant views of society. “Queens, 1963,” written by Julia Alvarez, is a poem in which the speaker depicts her childhood experiences as an immigrant living in a culturally diverse neighborhood in Queens, New York. The speaker’s memories are primarily composed of the effects that her ethnicity directly had on her life and her moreover, on her writing. The speaker writes “they’d come a long way to be free!” (line 19). This line is stated to show the desire for many to escape tension, and experience lives of liberty and justice. An important aspect to look to when reading this particular poem, is the time in which it was written, 1963, a period universally known for racial tension and protest such as the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War. Just as segregation dominated the nation as a whole during this time period, the speaker suggests that it also was directly evident in her particular neighborhood in Queens, and was therefore, was difficult to escape.
Consequently, Langston Hughes’ poem, “Theme of English B,” focuses on the barriers placed on individuals in society as a result of their race. The speaker discusses the factors that race places on people living in contemporary American societies. The reader is called to use deep insight to find the hidden message found beneath the poem’s careful end rhymes and intricate structure. It can also be beneficial to recall that Langston Hughes played a key role in the Harlem Renaissance, and was also an advocate in the Civil Rights Movement. In both poems the speakers convey personal experiences and troubles, and as a result allow the reader to capture a piece of their life, through the development of the underlying message of the poem. The uses of historical events are developed to portray its effects on the many perspectives in society.
The Jesuits call individuals in society to use service and other related experiences to develop a deeper self-awareness, and a clearer and more humble perception of oneself. This mission for justice and an enhanced society and individual, is prevalent in Jeffery Harrison’s poem, “Fork.” In the poem, the speaker describes a personal encounter with a malevolent teacher whose criticism directly affected his life. As means for revenge, the speaker steals an engraved fancy silver fork from the teacher’s home, and uses it to spite her, and to prove himself a capable and successful writer. In closing the speaker says, “You might even say your fork made me a writer. Not you, your fork” (line 59-60). The speaker meant that he did not let the teachers harsh and critical words get the best of him, that he used the fork as a way to find himself as a writer, and sent it back to her when he accomplished this for himself, out of spite.
In Lucille Clifton’s, “this morning (for the girls of eastern high school),” the speaker of the poem is an African American girl who describes the process of how one morning, she found her inner self. The title of the poem can infer that this is often a hard process to come by, and that may have been the reason why Clifton dedicated the poem to the girls of her high school. However, the speaker seems to celebrate this coming into awareness with oneself, and in the last line she repeats the phrase “I survive” (line 19-21).
The main message in all four of the poems analyzed is that of self-awareness, and the factors that influence individuals to see themselves on a deeper level than society commonly observes on the surface. As readers, we should consider looking to the belief of the Jesuits and their universal encouragement to prove and find our individual selves. Through the processes of motivation to reach out and overlook the barriers and generalizations placed on us by society, we all have the power to overcome any prejudice, burden or discouragement encountered.