What happens when the life we choose for ourselves conflicts with the life that is
chosen for us? “Shoplifters,” by Maura Stanton, describes a group of shoplifters whose
circumstances speak to the theme of isolation. They are alone, stealing by choice to fill
the void they each share--a lack of relationship with another human. “Night Waitress,”
by Lynda Hull, describes a woman working the night shift by choice. The waitress
complains to herself about the isolation she feels from her decision to take this job. She
too longs for relationship, but her situation makes her incapable of fostering any sort of
companionship. The structures of the two works share a similar pattern but in a reverse
order. One poem goes from focusing on a group to focusing on the individual; the
second poem does the opposite. In both works, routine intersects with reality--usually
represented by job related tasks against human nature and impulse. Then one must
ask if either of these categories are the result of personal choice or involuntary
circumstance. The poems “Shoplifters” and “Night Waitress” illustrate the contrast
between choice and circumstance in the context of relationship, structure, and routine
The sense of loneliness and longing for relationship is so strong and easily
distinguished in both works. The shoplifters circumstances forces them to steal so
that they can foster or mend some type of relationship in their lives. All characters but one choose to steal something that will benefit some other influence in their lives.
“Night Waitress” is a different story. Her choice is determining her circumstance.
She longs and feels the need for relationship but chooses not to do anything about it
because of her job.
The lack of a male figure is also another common factor of the two works. Not
as easily recognized, but it is there....