Eavan Boland’s unique poem, Patchwork, allows the reader to be privy to the private thoughts of a persona, presumably the author herself, as she struggles to answer the question of fate or destiny. Throughout the poem, while quilting alone late at night, the speaker puzzles over the randomness of the universe, utilizing the simple quilt metaphor to inspire a final epiphany. Immediately revealing the central theme of the poem as well as alluding to the narrator’s apparent self-doubt, the first stanza is an imperative aspect of this piece. The speaker begins by stating that she has “been thinking at random on the universe, or rather, how nothing in the universe is random”. So commences her journey to solve the question: Is there a predetermined course of events, or do we hold the power to create our own futures? The author has subtly presented the question to the reader in a sentence that makes use of chiasmus, thus capturing the reader’s attention by invoking personal thought and reflection. In addition, through the chiasmus, Boland skillfully manages to both characterize the narrator as a reflective, introverted individual, as well as foreshadow her uncertain opinion on the matter at hand. Such chiasmus’, oxymorons, and contrasting stanzas are seen repeatedly throughout the piece. They are essential in establishing a light, reflective tone and mood which, coupled with the use of the first-person perspective, enables the reader to form an unquestioning, intimate connection with the speaker. The insecurity of the narrator is further developed through the following transition phrase. Forcefully, she drags herself back to reality and hastily reprimands herself for attempting to understand an idea as complex and multifaceted as the universe, saying “there’s nothing like presumption late at night”. While the word “presumption” suggests the narrator believes her own opinion to lack validity, the condescending tone and use of sarcasm also convey a feeling of shame. As well, this comment is essential, as it simultaneously establishes the setting of the poem. Clearly, the author intentionally selected nighttime for its remarkable ability to inspire deep thought, mystery, and a sense of solitude. In addition, Boland’s isolation of and use of brackets on the line serves to remind the reader that the narrator’s thoughts are spontaneous as opposed to pre-planned and organized, as is often the case in poetry. This idea is continually reinforced throughout the piece through the simple diction, lack of a rhyming scheme, and irregular syntax and stanza structure. Ashamed of her presumptuous thoughts, the speaker forcefully ignores such philosophical musings, continuing on to describe her “sumptuous trash bag of colors” that she will use to create her patchwork quilt. Implying that she has not yet reached a resolute opinion on the pivotal theme of the poem regarding the randomness of the universe, this oxymoron confirms that the woman remains undecided. In addition, the word “sumptuous” used to describe the mixture of colors creates an image of luxuriousness; however, the “trash bag” belittles the magnificence of the fabrics. This could be interpreted as an illusion to the manner in which life often appears entirely hopeless and unpredictable at present but, upon reflection, patterns and connections emerge which rationalizes a seemingly irrational course of events. Likewise, the brilliance of the colorful fabrics cannot be experienced in its entirety until the scattered “bits” are gloriously assembled into perfect “pieces”. In fact, the woman claims that her fabrics are “wait[ing]” to be “cut and stitched and patched”. The use of personification in this circumstance serves to justify fate or destiny by implying that the fabrics themselves have a purpose in this world, which is to become a piece in the finished product of the quilt. In the same way, humans are simply living a role predetermined by the universe. The...
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