Exile

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The poem “Exile” by Julia Alvarez dramatizes the conflicts of a young girl’s family’s escape from an oppressive dictatorship in the Dominican Republic to the freedom of the United States. The setting of this poem starts in the city of Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, which was renamed for the brutal dictator Rafael Trujillo; however, it eventually changes to New York when the family succeeds to escape. The speaker is a young girl who is unsophisticated to the world; therefore, she does not know what is happening to her family, even though she surmises that something is wrong. The author uses an extended metaphor throughout the poem to compare “swimming” and escaping the Dominican Republic. Through the line “A hurried bag, allowing one toy a piece,” (13) it feels as if the family were exiled or forced to leave its country. The title of the poem “Exile,” informs the reader that there was no choice for the family but to leave the Dominican Republic, but certain words and phrases reiterate the title. In this poem, the speaker expresser her feeling about fleeing her home and how isolated she feels in the United States. The poet uses four line stanzas or quatrains, and this is a narrative poem because the speaker tells a story. The speaker seems a little odd in a way because she does not know what is happening; “Worried whispers” (6) is an alliteration, and it also symbolizes the speaker’s anxiety. Both her uncle and father do not tell the truth to the speaker, instead they “Sugarcoat” it. This is similar to Emily Dickinson’s poem “Tell all the truth but tell it slant” because the children might get scared if they learn the truth right away. In the line “What a good time she’ll have learning to swim,” (11) the poet again emphasizes how adults lie to children so they do not hurt them. The speaker feels as though her parents are lying to her; however, she just trusts them because she believes that what adults do cannot go wrong. Also, “A week at the beach so papi get some rest” (15) sounds as if the speaker’s father has to leave the Dominican Republic because he is some kind of danger. The speaker struggles throughout the poem because she is leaving everything she has known behind, and she is going to a new land that she knows nothing about.

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