Signatures and Apples: Children Claiming Identity
A young girl and boy take their first steps toward forging their identities. In Julia Alvarez’s “Dusting,” a girl decides that she wants to be more than a diligent housekeeper like her mother. In Alberto Rios’s “In Second Grade Miss Lee I Promised Never to Forget You and I Never Did,” a boy catches his first glimpse of romantic love by listening to his unconventional teacher. Both of these children learn important lessons about life from significant adults. And both Alvarez and Rios use strong figurative language to convey their feelings about these important formational moments from childhood. Alvarez uses personification and hyberbole to describe the mother’s cleaning. The speaker saw “[m]y name was swallowed in the towel . . .” (line 13), expressing the way her mom wiped away her name with the dust-cloth. This example of personification reveals how the speaker feels threatened with a loss of significance. Her mom cleaning and wiping away her name seems to take away the unique individual she is. The towel being capable of swallowing makes it seem hungry to devour her identity. Another description involves hyperbole: “[T]he pine grew luminous” (16) exaggerates the way the furniture shines after being dusted. It also exaggerates the mother’s extent of cleaning. Cleaning becomes the mother’s identity in the poem. As she wipes away her daughter’s attempts to use dust in a creative way, she is staying true to who she is. The mother has accepted that her role of simply contributing to the beauty of the pine furniture is the proper one. Simile is used to represent the development of the child’s identity. As the girl plays in the dust “[p]racticing signatures like scales” (5), she is expressing her growth as an individual. Her signing her name in the dust gives her a separation from what she views her mother to stand for, which is cleaning and no fun. By writing her name in the dust, the girl is...
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