Monologue of an Onion
The poem “Monologue for an onion” by Suji Kwock Kim begins with the peeling of an onion that could very well describe her and her agony, but further reading reveals that the majority of the poem is directed at the person doing the peeling. The reader cannot help but sympathize with the peeled onion, whether the emotions stem from the hurt state of the onion or from the aggressive peeler. Clearly the poet’s attack of the peeler grabs the attention of the reader and elevates the emotional connection with the poet.
Kim uses the metaphor “peeling away my body layer by layer” (line 3) to describe the unveiling of the layers of an onion. Although the metaphor describes the body of an onion, it is much deeper than that. The metaphor is about people; it is about trying to dig deep into someone’s personality and exposing their vulnerability. Moreover, the deep search and digging referred to are of unhealthy nature. The person searching for the core of another has gone too far in this poem; too far to the extent of making the poet resent and dislike the seeker of the heart.
This resentment is clear from the beginning of the poem where it starts with a negative tone, “I mean nothing, but this has not kept you from peeling” (lines 2-3), towards a person who has gone too far trying to achieve clarity and depths that are not realistically discoverable. The negative tone prevails throughout the whole poem which makes the poem powerful and very interesting to read. Kim is describing many people in her poem, yet the poem suggests that she is directing her words towards one person; a person who did her wrong by hurting her while hurting himself as well. Yellow peels, my stinging shreds. You are the one in pieces. ” (lines 28-29) shows an almost destroyed person being interrogated by a fool who will never get enough and who will keep searching for something unattainable. Humans, unlike machines, will never be controlled nor dissected to extremes. The grander sadness is not in the person who is being dissected, it is the one who keeps peeling layer after layer and never stops. This never-ending search can leave a person very unhappy and empty.
When reading the poem, the first line, “I don’t mean to make you cry”, is not clearly understood until one reads further into the story. While this is one of many metaphors that may seem to be about the sadness of the one who is getting peeled, it is also describing the sadness of the one who is doing the peeling. Indeed the peeler is crying in the end. Even though that line is the very first line of the poem, it is referring to an ending relationship that left both sides in tears and despair.
The focus is mainly on the deluded human who will never be happy in his search, “Poor deluded human: you seek my heart. ” (line 6). Even though both parties are hurt and disappointed, the poet makes it clear that her hurt feelings and sadness have made her very upset with the one who is the reason for ruining the relationship. Nevertheless, the focus of the poem is not about the relationship, it identifies a personality that does not understand the reality of human nature and the imperfection of the poet. The poem tackles two main themes.
The first theme is about a personality that does not understand the reality of human nature; a personality never satisfied no matter what goals it reaches, “your mind a stopless knife, driven by your fantasy of truth. ” The “stopless knife” is a beautiful metaphor emphasizing the characteristics of a mind destructive in its unreasonable search. The “fantasy of truth” ascertains that this human is delusional in attaining his goals. The second theme of the poem is the object of the delusional human, the poet herself. She is the one who is more realistic about life and human nature.
She understands the imperfections of humans, hence addressing her interrogator with sadness and disappointment. She is fed up with the blindness of the person who has hurt her, “Hunt all you want. Beneath each skin of mine lies another skin” (line 7). Apparently she has shown him who she is to the core of her heart, “I am pure onion–pure union of outside and in, surface and secret core. ” (lines 8-9), but he cannot accept that what he sees is enough. This poem has two main sets of metaphors running through it, both of which support the major metaphor of this paper, “peeling away my body layer by ayer”. So far the first set about the peeling of layers has been discussed rigorously. The second set of metaphors, “How will you rip away the veil of the eye,” (line 18) is a universal description of how the world is viewed. Kim is objecting that human relationships can be viewed with perfect clarity. In a nice tone, “You must not grieve that the world is glimpsed through veils. ” (lines 16-17), she is emphasizing her point with a little compassion towards someone who has hurt her.
In fact, that metaphor is the only one in which the poet shows compassion towards her attacker, compared to her overall attitude of resentment. She even uses irony in her words, “How else can it be seen? ” (line 17), when she refers to his inability to see the world with the veils on his eyes. Furthermore, her irony continues by accusing the person doing the peeling of being blind to what is right in front of his face, “Taste what you hold in your hands: onion-juice,” (line 21). His discontent with all his findings will leave him eternally unfulfilled.
This dissatisfaction inside him keeps cutting at his mind and soul, “Your soul cut moment to moment by a blade of fresh desire” (lines 25-26). In her few lines about the veil on his eyes, she was very successful in portraying a personality not very uncommon among us. It is the personality of an obsessive compulsive perfectionist who ruins any potentially good event in his life. To further insult the person doing the peeling, the poet delves deep into his own core and heart. She ends her poem by reversing the roles of whose core is to be revealed, “And at your inmost circle, what?
A core that is not one” (lines 27-28). This change in focus is beautiful as she speaks the truth about this deluded human’s heart. By now the reader is eager to see what the poet thinks of this core. Kim does not waste any time nor does she hesitate to describe the state of such a divided heart. “Lost in its maze of chambers, blood, and love,” (line 29) is beyond what one would expect a divided heart to be. She makes it clear that the heart is broken into more than just two parts, but indeed of three or more contradicting divisions.
The strength in the final lines is amazing as the poet finishes her final punches towards the man who caused all the grief and sadness to everyone involved. In addition, she throws her last line out, “A heart that will one day beat you to death. ” (line 29). One last true statement that contains a plethora of rich emotions; it is revengeful, sympathetic, degrading, satisfying, and freeing. Now she can walk away from the poison that she lived through! Not only does Kim’s poem target a large audience, the human race; it is very captivating because it also speaks of love and deep emotions!
Even if some of us have never experienced what she describes, most of us can relate to her situation. While the beginning of the poem describes one person in a relationship who is questioning the other partner about his or her actions, the final lines become more of an attack towards that partner. The attack becomes the resolution that the poet needs to answer her own questions and reach the conclusion that her emotionally draining partner is not worth her commitment or love.