To Be Of Use By Marge Piercy
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Marge Piercys poem “To Be of Use” expresses an opposing connotation about the idea of work. Most people believe the words “hard work” carry a negative connotation. What these words imply is not something that is generally received with enthusiasm but is often accepted either by force or obligation. The poemÐ²Ð‚™s central theme is that satisfaction and self-fulfillment can be attained by using ones skills to serve a specific function in life, for it is the opinion of the speaker that an unproductive existence has no value or significance because it is vain, and pointless. Piercy uses figurative language, imagery, description, symbolism, and details to develop this theme throughout the poem.
The narrator begins developing the theme in the first stanza by describing the people he loves the best. The speaker states that the people he loves “jump into work head first without dallying in the shallows” (2-3). Using this imagery the speaker reveals that he admires individuals who are not afraid of work; rather, they tackle their jobs “head first without dallying.” In other words, they are not lazy and do not delay or procrastinate the completion of their duties. The speaker states that the people he regards highly “swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight” (4). With this image Piercy indicates that the speakerÐ²Ð‚™s adored individuals that work with so much confidence and diligence often become so immersed in their work that they might end up isolating themselves from those with whom they associate. Further, the narrator declares that “They seem to become natives of that element, the black sleek heads of seals bouncing like half-submerged balls” (5-7). The speaker uses this metaphor to illustrate the notion that the people he loves work with such control and competence that they seem to be meant to do their jobs.
The poemÐ²Ð‚™s narrator continues his description of the people he loves in the second stanza to further shape the theme. With the statement, “I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart” (8), the speaker indicates with a metaphor that he is fond of people who manage arduous tasks which seem to require extraordinary strength without the facilitation of alternative more convenient methods of completing them. By including the details “people who harness themselves” in this line, the narrator implies that what makes these people so honorable is that they are ready and willing to become the “ox”; they do not need to be coaxed or forced to commit themselves to a task. The narrator adds that those whom he respects “pull like water buffalo, with massive patience” (9). Here Piercys figure of speech makes the speaker convey the idea that although they are heavy laden, they remain dedicated and devoted to their aims. When the narrator describes that they “Strain in the mud and muck to move things forward” (10), the words mud and muck become symbols of the obstacles and unfavorable conditions that the speakers favored people often have to contend with while working. Despite such discomfort and inconvenience, effort and determination, they persist and accomplish their goals. In addition, the speaker tells that he venerates people “who do what has to be done, again and again” (11). The repetition of the word Ð²Ð‚ÑšagainÐ²Ð‚Ñœ is a detail that puts emphasis on the traits of reliability and dependability that characterize the responsible attitude that the people the speaker admires take toward hard labor. Hence, in the first two stanzas, the narrator paints a picture of the virtues people he loves the best possess to help portray the values that are the foundation for the theme.
In the third stanza, the narrator states how much he likes “to be with people who submerge in the task” (12-13). By using this image that implies that the individual is completely surrounded or immersed in their occupation, Piercy demonstrates that the speaker likes the idea of those people who actively engage in the action necessary to the realization of a tasks achievement. By using the images of people “who go into the fields to harvest and work in a row and pass the bags along” (13-14), the narrator highlights the high level of active participation that his ideal workers maintain and their employment of teamwork and cooperation to