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Although written in different decades, by poets living in different countries, about different issues, there are many similarities between the poems Healthy Meal by Carol Ann Duffy and Two Scavengers in a Truck, Two Beautiful People in a Mercedes by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The vivid imagery which explores the feelings of the groups described in both poems is one such similarity. This imagery gives voice to the oppressed and successfully conveys both poets feelings about consumerism.
A Healthy Meal is a criticism about the indifference of gourmet diners to the animals they are eating. Duffy uses elaborate metaphors to humanise the animals. The secret dreams of cows is a metaphor for cows brains but also suggests that cows have dreams and therefore feelings. These metaphors show the poets sympathy for the animals, as she explores that they may also have had feelings. Two Scavengers also explores the feelings of those normally ignored as it tells of two garbage men and two beautiful people held together at a red light, commenting on the differences between them. Similes are used to convey the feelings of the garbage men as they are described as gazing down/ as if from a great distance. They are in fact close together, however this simile emphasises the huge social divide between the two groups. The verb gazing implies that the garbage men are looking intently, showing their feelings of longing for the life of the beautiful people. This is further emphasized by the line in which everything is always possible. Both poets use imagery to voice the longing for a better life that unites the animals and garbage men, highlighting the injustice of consumerism in our society which they feel so strongly about.
The issue of consumerism is also addressed through the technique of anthropomorphism in A Healthy Meal. The line these hearts knew/no love and on their beds of saffron rice they lie/beyond reproach has multiple implications. Duffy stresses the humanity of these animals with reference to their hearts. She also implies that they are treated badly throughout their lives as they knew no love, suggesting circumstances which mirror that of battery hens. This sentence tells the reader that the animals had feelings and these are explored as she leads us to believe that they wanted to be loved. There is also a great juxtaposition between the facts that people buy battery hens to save money, but are prepared to spend it on saffron which is an expensive herb. As Duffy relates her animals to humans, Ferlinghetti also explores feelings by relating his garbage men to a deformed figure through a simile like some gargoyle Quasimodo. The simile is striking as Quasimodo, in The Hunchback of Notre Dame, was kind and loving despite his ugliness. This comparison helps the reader see the garbage men in a different light as it suggest the same is true of the garbage men as is of Quasimodo. Through this simile we can see that the garbage men have feelings just like the rest of us; they are no less human because they are poor.
Both poets also describe the feelings of the antagonists in each poem; the Diners and the Beautiful People. In A Healthy Meal the diners are depicted unattractively as a fat man or the woman chewing suckling pig. The lack of depth used to describe them contrasts with the animals descriptions helping the reader to sympathise with the animals and feel negative towards the diners. It also leads us to believe that the animals feelings are much deeper and more important than the diners. In the same way the colour imagery of garbage men in red plastic blazers in Two Scavengers is missing in the descriptions of the beautiful people hip three- piece linen suit. This colourlessness reflects the lack of colour in their lives, showing how superficial the couple are. Contrasting to the strong colours used to describe the garbage men Ferlinghetti also seems to say that the feelings of the garbage men are more honest and interesting than that of the cool couple. He is certainly more interested in them. Both poets use contrast to explore the feelings of their characters teaching us a lesson which is true in our modern society; that often the disadvantaged, less interesting seeming people are the ones with the deepest feelings.
In both of the poems, A Healthy Meal and Two Scavengers, the poets Carol Ann Duffy and Lawrence Ferlinghetti criticise the injustice of consumerism in our society. Through metaphors, similes, anthropomorphism and contrast they explore the feelings of two oppressed groups in our society, animals and the poor. These techniques also reflect the poets belief about consumerism and leave the reader wondering what we can do to change this.
Posted Oct 25, 2008 9:37 pm - [delete]
With close reference to at least 2 poems discuss the methods the poets use to successfully explore emotions and/or feelings.
As the wise philosopher Socrates once said, contentment is natural wealth; luxury, artificial poverty. This doctrine is epitomized in Carol Ann Duffys poem A Healthy Meal and Lawrence Ferlinghettis poem Two Scavengers In A Truck And Two Beautiful People In A Mercedes. Both poets effectively illustrate their disapproving attitude towards consumerism and excessive affluence through the perfected use of metaphors, symbolism, religious and classical allusion.
The third stanza of A Healthy Meal describes the gourmets dining where the language of tongues is braised in armagnac. This subtle biblical allusion illustrates the overwhelming power of consumerism. In the Bible, one who speaks in different tongues is said to be possessed by spirits. Here, the gourmets speak in the language of tongues, symbolic of how they are becoming possessed by consumerism and selfish satisfaction. In parallel to this, Lawrence uses classical allusion to illustrate the gulf between affluent and underprivileged society. The older garbage man stands, hunched back looking down like some gargoyle Quasimodo. This character reference illustrates the ugliness of the man and his deformed and daunting appearance in stark contrast to the pretty blonde couple in the Mercedes. Both these allusions convey a negative and sadistic emotion to the reader, positioning them to feel both sympathetic and guilty. Duffy forces the reader to recognize the wrongdoings of the gourmets who indulge in slaughtered animals whilst Ferlinghetti makes the reader to sympathize with the men of lower social standard and feel guilty by realizing that our society is materialistic, and people fall into the trap of judgmental mentality and consumerism through inbuilt instinct.
Both poets also use symbolism to epitomize their negative attitudes towards their subject matters. Duffy describes the green door, behind which the swish of oxtails languish on an earthen dish. The door represents the barrier between the horrors of butchering and preparing the animal by the chef, and the well-presented meal selfishly consumed by the gourmets. Its green colour is also associated with the idea of life and nature. Ironically, the door is the entrance through which the animal will lose its life and become separated from nature. These ideas have strongly attached depressing emotions and are illustrated further through Ferlinghettis corresponding colour symbolism. The Garbage men are in a bright yellow truck, attired in red plastic blazers, both vivid colours of summer. Red is often associated with strength, energy and power and yellow with sunlight, joy and optimism. In stark contrast, the rich elegant couple is dressed in a three-piece linen suit, which is gray. This colour symbolizes stability, boredom and dullness. The rich couple may be financially stable, but appear to lead dull, scheduled lives. The garbage men, on the other hand, are associated with brighter colours conveying the idea of their colourful lives, despite their lower societal ranking. This portrays a sense of understanding and insight as the theme of social hierarchal systems is brought into question. This idea is developed further as the poets reveal the attitudes of the characters in their poems.
This is done through the effective use of metaphor that conveys overarching themes of arrogance and social instability. The gourmets on Duffys poem believe fingerbowls will absolve guilt. This strong metaphor contrasts guilt with the grime on the gourmets fingers and highlights their arrogance in believing their wealth will guarantee them a place in heaven, similar to the way in History, the Church taught people they could buy indulgences to enter the Kingdom of heaven as a ploy to become rich. The metaphor shows Duffys disgust to the arrogance of the affluent by making a stung connection to a disrespectable time in history and illustrating her opinion of their guilt which is smeared all over their fingers. Lawrence uses a similar technique to create a macrocosmic comparison between the illustrated microcosm and the global social divide. In his metaphor across that small gulf in the high seas of this democracy, the gulf can be seen as the literal distance between North and South America, or the deep abyss of distance which separates higher and lower class society. This clearly illustrates his dissatisfaction and infuriation to the order that global society takes in separating people according to wealth, thus evoking strong emotions of displeasure by making the reader understand the shallowness with which we judge others.
Although Carol Ann Duffy was Scottish and Lawrence Felinghetti was American, both explore similar ideas of consumerism and socials divide and their negative influence on society. The various use of techniques and their effective implementation allows both poets to evoke strong emotions in the mind of the readers, revealing key themes such as consumerism and societal hierarchy, forcing us to reconsider the world we live in today.