Mary Oliver Rhetorical Analysis Essay
The excerpt from Mary Oliver’s “Building the House” serves as a way to describe what happens during the poetry writing process. Although Mary Oliver believes that writing poetry is hard work, she uses extended metaphor, juxtaposition, and point of view to describe the writing process in comparison of building a house, which shows that Oliver sees poetry as something that involves mental labor which is a different challenge than physical labor . Through the use of extended metaphor, Mary Oliver is allowed to express both the mentality and physicality when writing a poem, which is able to show the differences and similarities by comparison.
The extended metaphor works to compare the process of writing poetry to that of building a house, as seen firstly with the title, “Building the House. ” Adding on, Oliver says, “… a stiffness of the fingers, a refusal of the eyes to follow the aim of the hammer toward the nail head… ” Through this extended metaphor, Oliver is attempting to show that like construction of houses and writing poetry, there is a lot of labor whether it’s physical or mental is involved.
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By comparing these two unlike things, it is seen that although they are different tasks, they share the same difficulty. She continues by contrasting how a poet only sits and “scribbles some words upon the page” and how the construction worker or architect is more of a labor because he/she “draws and measures. ” This goes to show that what she lacked in her job as a poet was physical motion, yet it is a hard task for her, as is attempting to carefully nail an object to another.
Mary Oliver uses juxtaposition to draw attention to the differences and similarities of writing poems and other types of work or labor to bring attention to how different tasks have different challenges just as do poems. “The dance dances, the painter dips and lifts and lays on the oils; the composer reaches at least across the octaves… ” The juxtaposition of how different workers work shows emphasizes Mary’s ideas that the mental labor of writing a poem is a different challenge than that of physical labor, yet it is seen in may different works and in different ways.
She continues on by saying, “The poet sits, or, if it is a fluid moment, he scribbles some words up on the page. ” This goes to show that although writing poetry does not involve the type of labor that building a house would do, it involves concentration and time, which is another challenge in the poet’s process. She uses this juxtaposition is used effectively by Mary Oliver to show how poetry writing also has it’s hardships and challenges and also shows that there are differences between different types of labor involved with different types of work.
Furthermore, Mary Oliver’s use of first-person point of view allows her to show how poetry writing is personal to her, and how it serves a specific type of challenge. Mary Oliver starts off her writing with the word “I,” and continues on by referring to herself as first-person. This continuous point of view allows her to create a relationship with the reader where the writing’s purpose is not merely just to educate or inform. When she says, “I understand his pleasure” when talking about a carpenter that she knew, she makes her previous anecdote personal to her.
Adding on, she says, “… motion… kept my body happy while I scribbled,” towards the end of the excerpt. This use of first person allows her to bring light to her willingness to be in motion and work extremely hard, whether it is mentally or physically to write. Overall, her first-person point of view emphasizes the fact that the challenges faced by writing poetry, are personal to herself, and that is why she finds it to compelling.
Mary Oliver uses many comparisons and contrasts to explain her mentality of writing poetry. Through the compare and contrast, the reader is able to see that not only can the building of a house be a metaphor to the writing process, but also to any other work that has challenges. This personal-narrative involving the description of a process and work, shows that Mary Oliver does see a lot of challenges when writing poetry, however, it is very different from other hardships because poetry is personal to her.