“Guilt” and “This Day in History” – A Comparison
In her lyric, free verse poem “Guilt”, Leona Gom creates a powerful and clear connection between her readers and an emotion that they are all familiar with—guilt. The simple one-word title offers a straightforward preview of the subject of this piece and implies the associated meanings that the term carries—a heaviness, a weight, a burden.
The poem is structured in two stanzas – the first one establishing ways in which guilt infiltrates our lives. Using an informal, conversational style liberally employing the second person pronouns “you” and “your”, Gom implicates her readers in a number of scenarios which present some of the common causes of guilt we so universally experience. These range from turning down the gift of your mother’s dishes “and you can never forget her hurt face turning away” (4) to accusing your best friend “of flirting with your boyfriend when all the time you knew it was him” (6-7) to betraying an office mate and “voting with the others after all” (15). By presenting a wide range and variety of situations involving family, friends and co-workers, the poet establishes the breadth and the depth this destructive emotion can have in our lives.
The second stanza offers a clear transition in tone as Gom shifts from accusing her reader of actions which cause guilt to reflecting on the consequences of those actions. Using the technique of an extended metaphor, the poet compares the effects of guilt to a nagging, recurring illness where our actions accumulate becoming ‘thousands of them, little knots you can’t shake loose from your memory”(16-17) and just when you think “you are not a bad person, there they come, little lumps of guilt” (21-22). Gom completes the comparison with a paradoxical and witty statement that these guilty memories are “like doctors . . . keeping you sick” (24).
Guilt—a heavy weight, a burden. In her short, but thought-provoking piece, Gom presents to us a...
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