Writing about Literature
3 June 2012
The theme of Cathy Song’s “The Youngest Daughter” is about the youngest daughter of six growing old along with her mother. The title on the poem is also ironic because Song uses imagery to show that the daughter is no longer young. Song also uses using imagery daughter’s skin tone lacking sunlight to symbolize the isolation the daughter has because she is caring for her mother. The mother and daughter have a co-dependent relationship with each other, even though the daughter resents caring for her sickly mother for so many years. The daughter is extremely unhappy to the point of it causing her pain, because her life is consumed with caring for her mother.
While the title of Song’s poem is “The Youngest Daughter”, because the speaker is the youngest of six children, the speaker is no longer young. The aging of the daughter and both the mother is shown in the first stanza. Song uses the images of the darkening sky “for many years” (lines1-2). Song could have used the title “The Youngest Daughter” to symbolize the leaving of the nest, since youngest child is always the last to leave the family home. Also parents, mothers in general seem to have a stronger attachment to their youngest never wanting them to leave to the home. This is shown in lines 44-45 were the speaker acknowledges that her mother aware of she how unhappy she is, but yet she still is home caring for her mother with no escape.
The speaker expresses her skin as being “pale as rice paper and feels the way mother’s used to before the drying of the sun” (Song 4-6). This not only shows the aging of the daughter, but the confinement the daughter has to the home, because of her caring for her sickly mother. The aging of the daughter is shown when she “touch[es}” herself and her “hands react as if something hot enough to burn”, it is as if the daughter is unfamiliar with herself. (Song 6-11). This shows how
Cited: Huot, Nikolas. Cathy Song. CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN WOMEN POETS: An A-to-Z Guide. By Catherine Cucinella. Westport, 2002. 352-355. Scribd.com. Web. 3 June 2012 Philip K. Jason. "The Youngest Daughter." Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition. Salem Press, Inc., 2002. eNotes.com. 3 June 2012. Song, Cathy. “The Youngest Daughter”. The Compact Bedford Introduction to Literature. Michael Meyer. Boston, New York: Bedford/ St. Martin’s, 2012. 621-622. Print