Home Is Where the Heart Is

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Some say “home is where the heart is.” Home can be everything to some. Home is their safe comfort place they have in life. Home determines a sense of one’s identity. One poem called “The Youngest Daughter” by Cathy Song involves characters experiencing conflicting situations between the demands of their home and identity. One might think that this poem is simply about mothers versus daughters; however, this poem evokes a broader sense meaning that daughters are torn between either pulling away or pulling closer to home. In one sense, the daughter in this poem is frustrated with her current situation and aspires to do more with her life, rather than devote her time doing what her mother thinks she should be doing. Despite this feeling, she knows she should be caring for her sick mother. The role she has in her home has conflicting messages. Using the elements of tone, narrative poem, and word choice, the poem can be explicated to show how it creates and resolves the meaning of conflict between mothers and daughters.

“The Youngest Daughter” utilizes the narrative type poem, which helps create and resolve the conflict in the poem. The main conflict in this poem is that the daughter has to choose between obligations and desires, while finding her own role in her home. A narrative poem tells a story, and this poem tells a story about a daughter taking care of her elderly mother. The poem is about what the daughter’s daily life is like. This shows the “obligations” part of her life. The first sentence of the poem is “the sky has been dark for many years.” This implies that everything that has been going on with her taking care of her mother has been going on for many years. Since her mother became ill, it has been the daughter’s obligation to take care of her. This obligation is based on cultural expectations. In many cultures, children are expected to take care of their parents once they age. The poem is organized into stanzas that are associated with a certain part of the story. One stanza describes what has been going on lately. Another is about “this morning.” The last stanza is about what goes on “in the afternoons.” Through the narrative type poem, the daughter is able to express the feeling that her identity is basically taking care of her mother. This identity is also her role in the family. This role limits her own self-identity. Because she is busy caring for her mother, she is unable to develop a sense of self. She is torn between two things: growing away from her mother, and pulling closer to her mother. She knows she has to take care of her, so that aspect makes her seem to pull closer to her mother. Contrary to that, this daughter is a grown woman, and she has a very limited and conflicted life. Her life is devoted to the mother. This is seen by the story of the poem. She wants to grow apart from her mother and do things in her life that interest her. The reader can see that the daughter wants to escape this whole situation because towards the end of the poem it says “She knows I am not to be trusted / even now planning my escape.” The readers learn here that the mother doesn’t trust the daughter, for reasons unknown. The second line of the above quote shows the readers that this is what the daughter is currently doing to make her mother not trust her. The daughter also desires that her mother’s health improve, because in the poem is says “As I toast to her health.” Love and pity toward her aging mother clash with the feelings of resentment and entrapment of herself.

“The Youngest Daughter” uses word choice to show the conflict of mothers versus daughters, and the daughter’s internal conflict of obligations and desires. The daughter uses middle diction to show her emotions. Like noted in a previous paragraph, the first sentence of the poem is “the sky has been dark for many years.” This shows that the daughter has been dealing with her mother’s illness for quite some time, and she hasn’t been able to see the...
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