Analysis of "Ave Maria"

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Bethany Thompson
Professor Breese
English 266
3 February 2009

Analysis of “Ave Maria”
Frank O’Hara’s poem, “Ave Maria,” encourages overprotective mothers to let their children experience life. The poem begins with the command, “Mothers of America / let your kids go to the movies!” He proposes a series of rationales for following this advice, including the conditional love of children who “won’t hate you” if they are permitted to do what they want. The true reason behind this directive, however, is made clear in lines 13 - 16: “they may even be grateful to you / for their first sexual experience / which only cost you a quarter / and didn’t upset the peaceful home.” The idea that a parent could provide a child’s first sexual experience may be shocking to parents, but O’Hara’s poem implies that by allowing them this experience, you have readied them for adulthood. Also, the image of sexuality being priced like popcorn, “a quarter”, is amusing; it’s the pleasures of adulthood at quite a bargain. O’Hara initially contrasts the “peaceful home” – a room, a yard, “mothers,” and “little tykes” – with the movie theatre, “embossed by silvery images.” He then contrasts the parents’ overprotective instruction with that of a “pleasant stranger” who offers the equivalent: “they will know where candy bars come from

and gratuitous bags of popcorn
as gratuitous as leaving the movie before it’s over
with a pleasant stranger whose apartment is
in the Heaven on Earth Bldg
near the Williamsburg Bridge”

 These children will learn about adulthood through gaining sexual knowledge. O’Hara paints a win / win situation. If “nobody picks them up in the movies/ they won’t know the difference / and if somebody does it’ll be sheer gravy.” He suggests that if they don’t get their first sexual experience, they will at least have seen a movie, instead of staying in their room “hating you.”  O’Hara concludes his poetic admonition with a...
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