Terra Cotta Girl
The poem has clear, wide-open drama while managing ambiguity and open-endedness. A sort of modern local color piece tinted with Southern elements, it nevertheless makes its characters real and sympathetic, treats important themes that are both topical and general, and offers an apt objective relationship with universal implications. Technically a lyric, the poem filled with narrative and drama: an off-the-farm college girl, a Southerner, and perhaps a Georgian like Sellers herself, has fallen in love with a "quiet girl down the hall" (9). The girl's conservative mother "has seen to" (10) having her daughter seek for an expert help. Ungraceful, conflicted inwardly, and beset outwardly by parental pressure, the girl now waits to see a counselor. No character speaks, but the role of each is well defined. At least five characters, perhaps six, come into play: two girls, their two mothers, and one or maybe two counselors. Onstage is the "terra cotta girl" (1)--and maybe her mother as well. The other, "quiet" (9) daughter and her mother, along with a counselor (perhaps the same one), running a parallel to the scene we are witnessing. Although the poem shows us the girls as living "down the hall" (9) from each other in their college dormitory, it also suggests another indirect possibility that, at the very moment of the present action, this other girl, the quiet one, is just "down the hall" waiting to see another counselor during two parallel sessions that the mothers have "seen to" (10). Perhaps, the other girl's mother is with her, too. The other girl may be "quiet" precisely because the narrator chooses not to give her a separate story. If this is the case, her "terra cotta" lover stands in as
her delegate. The phrase "quiet girl" draws the image of a shy character, who may be less able to handle her current torture, and not as strong as "terra cotta girl". Formally, the poem has thirteen short lines with different numbers of syllables and...
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