Honors 9th Grade Literature
March 2, 2011
Kindness Critical Analysis
-Naomi Shihab Nye
Before you know what kindness really is
You must lose things,
Feel the future dissolve in a moment
Like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
What you counted and carefully saved,
All this must go so you know
How desolate the landscape can be
Between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
Thinking the bus will never stop,
The passengers eating maize and chicken
Will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
You must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
Lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
How he too was someone
Who journeyed through the night with plans
And the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
You must know sorry as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
Catches the thread of all sorrows
And you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
Only kindness that ties your shoes
And sends you out into the day to mail letters and purchase bread,
Only kindness that raises its head
From the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
And then goes with you everywhere
Like a shadow or a friend.
Do you know what kindness really is? The poem “Kindness”, by Naomi Shihab Nye, is a deep and meaningful poem that uses personification, free verse rhythm, simile, and alliteration to bring out the message that society does not fully understand kindness until one looses something, and this can be seen throughout American history as well. Critics Pamela Steed Hill and Anna Maria Hong give their opinions on Nye’s work. Each explains what they personally think it means. Nye thinks that kindness is one of the most important things in society today.
To begin, the theme is evident throughout the text. The main theme as a whole is that kindness is not completely understood or appreciated by society. People sometimes become blinded to life’s opportunities to kindness, or kindness itself. Some people would agree that it is one of the most treasured and hard to come by values. Compared to the saying “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone”, the author also believes that one may have to lose something, or even everything, to understand what kindness really means. Society can become too focused on the future and reaching goals instead of stopping and smelling the roses along the way. Nye uses straightforward language to make points so that readers can fully understand the meaning. Her use of the word “you” refers to a universal you. That means that she is talking to whoever is reading this poem at whatever time. It doesn’t matter who the reader is. Kindness is more complex than it seems, and she uses poetic devices to emphasize that point.
To begin this point, Naomi Shihab Nye uses personification, free verse rhythm, simile, and alliteration in this poem to give readers her full message. Much personification is used to show that kindness can change a lot of things in your life if you let it. For example, “Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore, Only kindness that ties your shoes” (Nye lines 27-28) explains that once you truly understand what kindness is, everything you do is done because you want to be kind. “Only kindness that raises its head from the crowd of the world to say It is I you have been looking for,” (Nye Lines 30-33). This means that even when you feel like no one else is there for you, you can still be kind. It will never turn away from you. “And then it goes with you everywhere like a shadow or a friend” (Nye Lines 33-34) helps add to this...