Jane Kenyon’s The Blue Bowl

1326 Words3 Pages

Kenyon’s criticism of burial and the mourning process and the manner in which it fails to provide a sense of closure for those who have lost a loved one is the main underlying theme in The Blue Bowl. Through her vivid description of both the natural setting and the grief-stricken emotional overtone surrounding the burial of a family’s house pet and the events that follow in the time after the cat is put to rest, Kenyon is able to invoke an emotional response from the reader that mirrors that of the poem’s actual characters. Her careful use of diction and the poem’s presentation through a first-person perspective, enables Kenyon to place the reader in the context of the poem, thus making the reader a participant rather than a mere observer. By combining these two literary techniques, Kenyon present a compelling argument with evidence supporting her critique of burial and the mourning process.

Kenyon’s choice of a first person perspective serves as one of two main techniques she uses in developing the reader’s ability to relate to the poem’s emotional implications and thus further her argument regarding the futility of mankind’s search for closure through the mourning process. By choosing to write the poem in the first person, Kenyon encourages the reader to interpret the poem as a story told by the same person who fell victim to the tragedy it details, rather than as a mere account of events observed by a third party. This insertion of the character into the story allows the reader to carefully interpret the messages expressed through her use of diction in describing the events during and after the burial.

The diction Kenyon employs for her description of the poem’s physical and psychological setting serves as Kenyon’s primary means for presenting her argument regarding the nature of the mourning process and its failure to help those who have lost loved ones. The poem’s first stanza begins as follows, “Like primitives we buried the cat with his bowl. Bare-handed we scraped sand and gravel back into the hole(1-4).” The first two words, “like primitives,” give the reader immediate insight into Kenyon’s opinion regarding the nature of the burial itself. She sees it as a means of coming to grips with death that is less evolved than the mental state of those that it attempts to help. When the first stanza is interpreted as a whole, the reader is...

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...ten through mourning, thus allowing her to illustrate one last example supporting her argument regarding the failure of burial and the mourning process to provide a sense of closure for those who have lost a loved one.

Through the careful use of diction presented through a first-person perspective, Kenyon is able to use The Blue Bowl as a medium for social commentary regarding what she sees as a primitive mourning process that does not help those who undertake it. Through a careful analysis of the poem, the reader is able to understand Kenyon’s critique of the mourning rituals that humans use to alleviate the grief caused by the death of a loved one and interpret the shortcomings that Kenyon finds. Kenyon’s use of perspective combined with specifically chosen diction enables her to present a social commentary regarding what she believes to be the inherent shortcomings in the emotional effects of the burial itself and the sense of closure it is supposed to bring yet fails to achieve during a typical period of mourning.

Works Cited

Kenyon, Jane. "Poetry 180 - The Blue Bowl." Library of Congress Home. Web. 11 Dec. 2015.


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