Essay on Character, Symbolism, and Language in Linda Pastan's Ethics
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Use of Character, Symbolism, and Descriptive Language in Linda Pastan's Ethics
As people evolve from children to young adults and finally to maturity, they find that they are constantly faced with difficult decisions. Learning to make the right choice in a difficult situation is one of the hardest lessons to learn. Many people make choices without considering what the results may be. They only look to the future for knowledge instead of considering the knowledge already discovered in the past. In Linda Pastan's "Ethics," the author has painted a picture of the difficulty people have when they refuse to realize that the most difficult choices to make are also the most important. Through Pastan's use of character, symbolism, and descriptive language, the theme of this poem is presented for thought. While choices are made every day without much thought, Pastan has made clear that choices made without the benefit of wisdom are almost always regretted.
The portrayal of the speaker is one way the author has reinforced her theme. The speaker is young and in school (1). An instructor asks the class to make a difficult choice in a hypothetical situation. Many young people today are faced with making these types of decisions everyday. They try to make choices without considering all facts. For example, many young adults are uninterested in heritage and history. Like the speaker who sits "...restless on hard chairs..."(6), and makes a different decision each time "...always half-heartedly..." (9), young people today do not realize the importance of knowledge. Some of them are in school only because their parents insist on it. They show no interest in the rich history of society. They are too busy...
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... When the speaker declares that "...earth's most radiant elements burn through the canvas..." (22-23), the message that its never too late is clear. People can start learning from the past and from past mistakes.
Pastan has created a vivid example of the difficulty of making choices in "Ethics." People seldom realize the repercussions their choices may make. As people grow older and learn more, they tend to see how ignorant some of their choices were. The same can be said of society. Although a great many wrong choices have been made along the way, it is not too late for society to once again put value on what it already has instead of what it might have.
Pastan, Linda. "Ethics." Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. 4th ed. Ed. Edgar V. Roberts and Henry E. Jacobs. Upper Saddle River: Prentice, 1995. 855.