The Letter Commentary

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Omaar Shihadeh
Period 1 Mrs. Gibbs Literature
October 22, 2008
A Commentary on Jane Kenyon’s The Letter

In Jane Kenyon’s The Letter, the poem describes the persona of a woman whose father has succumbed to illness as described by her mother’s letter. The focus of the poem is the way of which this woman deals with her grief by traversing to a remote area along with her dog and her “morbidity” (11). The beginning of the poem introduces the reader to the context of the situation whereby the letter, the subject of the title, informs the woman that her father has cancer. The tone of The Letter is established by the culmination of all of the different literary techniques used by the author. In order to paint a tone of voice Kenyon magnifies the emotion which passes through the woman’s mind by noting detail of imagery and physical action as the woman walks through the desolate woods.

In the first stanza the woman is recollecting about what she has read in the letter, this is the distressing news about her father’s illness in order to convey a sense mood being the despair of the situation. The way in which the first stanza is written is without emotional appeal, and only a focus upon the detail of the subject can determine the emotional aspect it is mechanical. The speaker does not find the news promising as implied by “Bad news arrives in her distinctive hand” (1). This is because the news is not new, it may have occurred before, and anything distinct means that it stands out as negative. The woman highlights the aspects which interest her most of what may be a detailed letter, “hair loss, bouts of sleeplessness and agitation at night, exhaustion during the day” (4-5) determines what thoughts are running through the speakers mind. The emphasis of the symptoms of the father’s illness implicates the emotional aspect of the speaker as distressed and worried about the health of her father. The author already by the first stanza alone implicates a...
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