Sacrifice. One simple word brings to mind two completely different images. Today, sacrifice is most often thought of as a noble and beautiful act, but also one painful-emotionally, mentally, and physically-involving the surrender of something highly valued for the sake of something deemed of superior value. On the other hand, when done in the name of religion, sacrifice may involve the offering of a gift to some deity in worship or propitiation. Usually when sacrifice involves the latter, the connotation of the term darkens, for the dominant image is of ritual slaughter. Generally, we do not think of mothers or children as being the victims of this type of sacrifice. Imagery in Louise Glück s poem The School Children, however, depicts mothers sacrificing their offspring and themselves for the benefit of the children.
The first stanza begins by stating, The children go forward . They are leaving their mothers behind, going to a place inaccessible to them. At the moment the children are on their way to school, but as they progress, they will begin to move past the achievements of their parents. Instead of becoming resentful, the mothers do all they can to ensure this progress continues. All morning the mothers have labored . They exert themselves strenuously for the benefit of their children. They put forth much time and energy at manual labor. The mothers labored in giving birth to their children, and are laboring to raise them to adulthood. They sacrifice themselves so that their children may have a future better than their own.
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...d, for the fruit trees gray limbs do not provide much ammunition in their battle for their children s future. The mothers will not be able to earn enough money at such menial jobs to provide escape for their offspring or for themselves. Escape will in the end hang on the aptitude and resilience of the children.
The School Children presents a heartbreaking depiction of sacrifice and devotion. In a few short lines, Louise Glück portrays the desperate love of mothers for their children. The mothers sacrifice of themselves and those they treasure, while painful for all, is an act of love, noble and beautiful. The imagery of The School Children paints pictures of labor, separation, and sacrifice, but ultimately of determination, devotion, and love.
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