Professor Sim Bourham
11 December 2012
Working Out to Find the Meaning of Life
In the poem “At the Gym” Mark Doty is giving a description of a person at the gym that is about to lift weights. The description uses terms that can be commonly used in describing the gym environment to give a deeper meaning to the life that we lead as human beings. The metaphors that are used to relay the message are a salt-stain spot, the vinyl bench, the weights being lifted, and the actual gym. Taking a closer look at the meaning of the poem can provide insight on our own life as to why we lead the life we lead. What is the true meaning on why we do things? Do we do things to be righteous or unselfish? Or is it that we do things to prove arrogance and selfishness? I believe the author, Mark Doty, is asking the simple question “Why is it that you live the way you do and what legacy will you leave behind? Imagine yourself at the gym, everyone there with the same objective, to improve the way they look. This can be thought of in one simple word, vanity. Mark Doty used metaphors to give this concept a deeper meaning. As we prepare to start our workout, we look at the vinyl bench and notice a “salt-stained spot” (1). This salt-stain is dried up sweat left from the person that used the bench before us. It symbolizes the struggle and work that was put in by the previous users and soon to be added by you. Why were these people working so hard and why am I getting ready to do the same? The next passage says “lay down their heads, back to the bench, and hoist nothing that need be lifted” (3-6). This obviously is talking about lifting the weights, metaphorically speaking, is talking about completing unnecessary tasks. The tasks are burdens that are brought on by our selves not once, but over and over again expressed in gym terms as “more reps, more weight” (8-9). The action of lifting the weights can be seen as burdens that we as humans must...
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