The poem “The Youngest Daughter” by Cathy Song is produced in a dramatic monologue. In this poetic piece the mother is the woman who is experiencing the loss of her beauty, while “the youngest daughter" realizes that she is on the same course to ageing. The poem's language plays a role in this kind of interpretation, due to the fact that within the poem Song utilizes such imagery, that repeats the reality of that they both are maturing in their own way in the background of routine day-to-day activities. It could be suggested that the poem brings up the issue of the realization of that age takes away the female beauty, which is a tragic experience for those, who are still struggling with their reality and a casual thing for those, who have lost the battle.
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The dramatic framework of this piece is that the author of the poem is disappointed with her mother’s as well as her own circumstances. The title of the poem is “The Youngest Daughter”, since the narrator appears to be the youngest among the six children of her mother. However, she is not getting younger, but older. The maturing of both the daughter as well as the mother is demonstrated in the initial stanza. The narrator is depressed and desires to escape the home duties as a result of her weariness, and likewise because she carries a great deal of emotional tension within herself. This is demonstrated in lines 44 and 45, where the author recognizes that her mother realizes how miserable she is. The author could possibly have chosen the title “The Youngest Daughter” to represent the departure from the nest, given that the youngest children are usually the last to get away from the family house. In addition, mothers, in most cases, appear to have a more powerful connection to their youngest child, never wishing them to go away from the family. On the other hand, the daughter continues to be home, meeting the needs of her mother without any sidestep. “She knows I am not to be trusted, even now planning my escape” (Song, 44-45).Thus, the title of the poem may be misleading at first glance, pointing to the youthfulness of the main character, while the true author's meaning behind the title is actually the oldness.
The author is determined to express her thoughts in the tone that she employs on the grounds that she pays attention to that her mother has turned out to be more aged and her own body is growing old too. Song employs the imagery of the somber sky color, “The sky has been dark for many years” (Song, 1-2). The daughter is definitely provoked to such thoughts, since she compares herself with her mother and sees how much the mother's physique has corroded with time. She understands that her own body is starting to change the same manner too. She refers to her skin as having turned “pale as rice paper and feels the way mother’s used to before the drying of the sun” (Song, 4-6). This kind of reference not only demonstrates that the daughter is getting older, but also that she is confined within the boundaries of the routine cycle of home responsibilities. Her mother took care of her. Then, she got old. Now the daughter is taking care of her ill mother. Then, it is easy to foresee that, she will get old too. The growing age of the daughter is suggested as her “hands react as if something hot enough to burn” when she touches her skin (Song, 6-11). It seems as though she is not really acquainted with herself and the processes that are taking place in her own body.
It can be suggested that a role change involving the ageing mother and her youngest daughter has come about. The way how free verse and metaphors are used contributes to this idea. The daughter and the mother have changed their functions. At this time, the daughter performs the role of the care-giver, even if without eagerness, and this is displayed in a number of ways. The breasts of the mother, which some time ago fed her children as they were small, are currently old, wrinkly and unproductive. The narrator’s skin has assumed the qualities her mother used to have. The scene in the bathroom proves how vulnerable and disadvantaged the mother is, very much like a child. This makes a contribution to the experience that the “the youngest daughter” has matured more than it was sufficient and her young age is disappearing from her.
As I was reading this poem, my understanding of its meaning begin to change drastically. Usually, when one hears the phrase “the youngest daughter”, the thought that comes to mind is that it should be about a child that parents have spoiled by placing him or her at the center of their family life. However, from the very first line and all the way through the poem the pink colors in my perception of the poem began to quickly disappear, being replaced with darker tones, just as the initial expectation of the liveliness of childhood was changed by the mature choices that one had to make in the life of a grown-up. The poem appeared to talk about not the joy of the young age, but the tragic realization that the years of the “unwrinkled skin” go by quickly and bring with them more responsibilities and emotional tension rather than relief. However, as we see it in the mother’s example, the worries will soon stop being focused on the condition of ourselves, but on the people around us and their major role in our life.
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