In B.H. Fairchild’s poem, “The Dumka”, Fairchild utilizes imagery and symbolism to strongly contrast the past and present life. The parents, representing an old couple, “sit alone together” as they reminisce about their lives. As they sit on the blue divan” (line 2) with “Dvorjak’s piano quintet” (line 3) playing softly, it gives them a quiet atmosphere for peace and silence, yet granting them opportunities for memories of the past financial hardships of the Great Depression to flood over them. As the antique phonograph symbolizes an old age, it shines “distant as a lamplit”(line 8) “across the plains” (line 9), vast and unpopulated, evoking contrast of distance between the emerging lifestyle and the poverty “breadlines in the city”(line 23) during the Depression in the 1930’s and the spiritless and lifeless “mannequins” (line 24) of men. The “memory of dust” (line 18) that settled over mantles triggers memories of dreadful dust storms that “smear[ed] the sky green with doom” (line 13), but yet satisfies the old couple thinking about the repeated hardships they had to survive through. The repetition of “the homecoming” (line 26-27) emphasizes the relief that people experience as the war ended and the economy began to prosper with “green lawns” (line 28) and “a new piano with its mahogany gleam” (line 28). Now, their lives have changed vastly, and only memories intact to remind them of the continual suffering they had to experience. Through the speaker’s technique of using strong imagery to display significant events in the couple’s lives, one can see that the poem possesses strong contrast.
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