The first person narrator of The Day Lady Died is the key to the poem because readers see the poem unfold from his perspective. What the narrator deems signifigant enough to mention is all that readers get to set the scene. Therefore, O’Hara’s abundant use of concrete details to establish the setting through the narrator’s eyes paints a vividly clear picture. For instance it isn’t only “12:20 in New York” (O’Hara, 365), but 12:20 in New York on “…a Friday three days after Bastille day” (O’Hara, 365). Bastille Day, which always falls on July 14th of the given year. So in the first two lines alone the narrator sets the stage for a stifling hot day in New York, during the heart of the summer, a day on which something so signifigant happened that he remembers the exact times he gets a shoe shine, the exact time he predicts to get off the train in Easthampton, and how far removed from the celebration of French revolution the day was.
These small details are continuously fed to readers as the poem runs on. Without a single full stop the poem meanders through the narra...
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...y day still occurs and lends to the timeless feel of the poem. A more modern instance would be the September 11th attacks in 2001. What started as an average Tuesday would become a day etched into the American and global psyche forever after, with people able to recall where they were, what they were doing, and everything they did in the immediate aftermath for years to come. The same can be said for several other major events, such as Pearl Harbor and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. While Billie Holiday’s death, from an outside perspective, does not weigh on the American conscious like acts of terrorism or the death of the Commander in Chief, the poem is told from the personal stance of the narrator who feels the loss acutely enough to recognize the multitudes of small moments on a singular day that the narrator came to describe as The Day Lady Died.
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