Sounds and Imagery of Human Emotion
In Marge Piercy’s “The Secretary Chant”, the author uses images and sound to both dehumanize and mechanize the female speaker, while John Updike uses imagery and sounds to make the “Player Piano” come to life. Piercy uses images of the speaker, connected with various office equipment to give a vision to the reader of a woman living her life through the office equipment that is part of her very being. Piercy uses personification in reverse and other metaphors, such as metonymy, and paradox, to give an actual picture of the office machines actually performing their functions. And also through the operation of the office equipment attached to the speaker showing her only purpose in life. Sounds are important in “The Secretary Chant as onomatopoeia, alliteration, and the descriptions that show the speaker little by little becoming more mechanized until filed away for another day. Updike also uses personification to make the “Player Piano” come alive. Through rhyme, alliteration, consonance, cacophony, diction, and meter the poem sounds like music. The images that the speaker brings forth when the poem is read out loud, is melodic. The perfectly played “Payer Piano” only works within the constraints of the human-made machine. John Updike’s poem, “Player Piano” and Marge Piercy’s “The Secretary Chant “convey through sound and imagery the personification and dehumanization of mechanical speakers, with Updike doing a better job by saying that people are irreplaceable because of emotion.
The title of Piercy’s “The Secretary Chant” gives a good indication of the list of statements that begin with: “My hips are a desk. / From my ears hang / chains of paper clips” (lines 1-3), metaphors that make the reader visualize that the speaker is only a place where office machines connect together to form her purpose at the firm, as an object to perform tasks. The first six lines, as well as, lines eight through thirteen vividly describe in...
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