To Be of Use by Marge Piercy

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Marge Piercy's poem "To Be of Use" expresses an opposing connotation about the idea of work. Most people believe the words "hard work" carry a negative connotation. What these words imply is not something that is generally received with enthusiasm but is often accepted either by force or obligation. The poem’s central theme is that satisfaction and self-fulfillment can be attained by using one's skills to serve a specific function in life, for it is the opinion of the speaker that an unproductive existence has no value or significance because it is vain, and pointless. Piercy uses figurative language, imagery, description, symbolism, and details to develop this theme throughout the poem. The narrator begins developing the theme in the first stanza by describing the people he loves the best. The speaker states that the people he loves "jump into work head first without dallying in the shallows" (2-3). Using this imagery the speaker reveals that he admires individuals who are not afraid of work; rather, they tackle their jobs "head first without dallying." In other words, they are not lazy and do not delay or procrastinate the completion of their duties. The speaker states that the people he regards highly "swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight" (4). With this image Piercy indicates that the speaker’s adored individuals that work with so much confidence and diligence often become so immersed in their work that they might end up isolating themselves from those with whom they associate. Further, the narrator declares that "They seem to become natives of that element, the black sleek heads of seals bouncing like half-submerged balls" (5-7). The speaker uses this metaphor to illustrate the notion that the people he loves work with such control and competence that they seem to be meant to do their jobs. The poem’s narrator continues his description of the people he loves in the second stanza to further shape the theme. With the statement, "I love...
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