Formalistic Approach Applied to the Poem “Order for Masks”

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Formalistic Approach Applied to the Poem “Order for Masks”
First and foremost this paper endeavors to appreciate the piece of poetry written by Virginia Moreno. Without having any knowledge regarding the author’s life and time, this paper will try to stand on its own as an entity in itself. It is worthy to note that, a lot of patience for the critic as well as for the evaluator is needed to fully understand the meaning of this poem.

After the first reading of the poem, I could only grasp how ambiguous the poem could get. This narrative poem written in free verse speaks about a persona who wears a mask to portray certain as a task to the three men in her life. The narration of the female persona talks to Billiken which is actually a charm doll that represents the “no worry ideal”. The persona asks Billiken to order three masks: the first one is for her brother, the second one to the father and the last one to her lover which will be discussed further in this paper later on.

1 To this harlequinade
From the first line, the word harlequinade is to be given emphasis to construct the premise of this paper. From the term itself, harlequinade is a type of theatrical performance piece which dates back to England in the mid 18th century. Harlequinade could represent what the persona is trying to do which is acting like a clown or buffoon which builds up the idea in line two which says:

2I wear black tights and fools cap
This means to say that the persona is like trying to play the role of Harlequin who plays the principal part in this play. In the Harlequinade, his everlasting high-spirits and cleverness work to saves him from several difficult situations which his behavior gets him into during the course of the play. But he never holds a grudge or seeks revenge. Hence, as an actor in a harlequinade, the actor needs to have a mask which is stated in line three:

3Billiken, make me three masks
Masks connotatively mean a covering worn on the face for protection or disguise. Why need masks? This suggests that the persona wants to hide something. She wanted to create a new personality through the use of the mask.

4 For the three tasks in my life
5 Three faces to wear
6 One after the other
7 For the three men in my life
Each face corresponds to a task that the persona has to perform. Each task requires a corresponding personality for the three men.
8 When my brother comes
9 Make me one opposite
10 If he is devil, a saint
11 With a staff to his fork
12 And for his horns, a crown
Lines 8-9 conditions that the mask she needed for her task to her brother must be of opposite personality to her sibling which further strengthened by lines 10-12 that the persona wanted to be of extreme paradox to her brother. 13 I hope by contrast

14 To make nil
15 Our old resemblance to each other
Accordingly, lines 13-15 express the persona’s desire to erase her resemblance to her brother. Thus, when her brother escorts him, his brother will face other people blissful and assured that she’s not a threat to him anymore. 16 And my twin will walk me out

It is noticeable in line 16 that the persona used the term twin as allusion to her brother. Perhaps they were really not twins. But this line somehow implies that twin is used to signify that like twins who are in nature born with similar characteristics, each twin would always want to be distinguished from the other. The same thing is applied why the persona wanted to be different from her brother. In line 16 also, the phrase ‘will walk me out’ will appear again on the following stanzas signifying that the object of the persona will escort her out facing other people. 17 Without a frown

18 Pretending I am another
However the last two lines of the stanza (lines 17-18) could mean that the brother is happy that he will not resemble like his sister anymore but ironically, he is not proud. Perhaps it is because of the reason that no...
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