A Matter of Understanding Essay

A Matter of Understanding Essay

Length: 1145 words (3.3 double-spaced pages)

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The separation of a child from the place he was conceived in leads to a life of utter disarray. The sudden shift in atmosphere, lifestyle and culture is often too great of a burden for the mind of a youngster to fully comprehend. Oftentimes, the transition is abrupt and sudden - rare does the person have time to absorb the rapid changes. Although with time one may come with terms with the reality of a new environment, the wonder of the place left behind and the unanswered questions always remain within the person's thoughts. Jessica Hagedorn illustrates this concept in her poem 'Song for my Father'. The persona depicted attempts to figure out the cause as to why the place she repeatedly visits throughout her life always seems to be drawing her back, failing to realize that it is this mystery and impossibility of fully understanding her place of origin that constantly allures her.
Although not stated explicitly, the persona in 'Song for my Father' seems to represent the author Jessica Hagedorn. In a period marked by political instability and nationwide disorder, Hagedorn had to leave the Philippines and her father at the age of thirteen and live in the United States for majority of her life. This life event resembles the persona and is shown in the beginning stanzas of the poem. Thus it can be inferred that the persona is a vessel that Hagedorn utilizes to illustrate the thoughts and images in her mind as she returns to the Philippines.
The dilemma of the persona is immediately set forth in the beginning of Hagedorn's poem. The last lines of the first stanza explicitly spell this out: ". . . and I have not yet understood my obsession to return" (Hagedorn 32). The word 'return' in particular alert the readers that the place being ...

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...he isn't aware of her ignorance and the fact that the place she perpetually visits may never be understood, then it isn't illogical to conclude that she will never truly figure out why she keeps being drawn back. Only when she is aware that she may never fully understand will she come to terms with herself and realize that it is this 'notion' of never knowing what else is in store that keeps luring her back. Only when a person fully accepts the fact that you may never truly understand something will that person finally value its significance. The poem ends in a sad note, with the persona returning to America still confused as ever - but who's to say her journey ends there?

Works Cited

Hagedorn, Jessica. "Song for my Father." Breaking Silence, an Anthology of Contemporary Asian American Poets. Joseph Bruchac, Ed. New York: Greenfield Review Press, 1983. Print.

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