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The Elements That Achieve Realism in Moore’s Poem

Most literary writers try to achieve realism in their work to reach the hearts of their readers. They use different tools, such as similes, metaphors, characterization, and imagery that may help them sound more realistic. On the contrary, these techniques can create an unrealistic tale depending on the author’s intention. The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms defines ‘realism’ as a written work that depicts a close image of ordinary people’s actual lives (Baldick 281). This definition almost accurately applies to the realism in Marianne Moore’s poem Marriage with the addition that it is also telling things as they are without altering and idealizing the actual situation or matter. It also does not necessarily have to be direct in the description but can mimic the real life. Even though literary devices like mythology, metaphors, and symbolism are generally perceived to disrupt realism, the author of the given poem proficiently uses these elements to reflect the real world of the 20th century.

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A considerable part of the work is written using mysticism as a base for Marriage description, which can potentially obstruct realism. Moore starts her writing by portraying Adam and Eve, the characters believed to be the first human couple in Christianity, as standard models of husband and wife. She also uses ancient Greek mythologies to narrate the concept of love. She talks about the god of Marriage, Hymen, and the adventures of the legendary hero, Hercules. The places from legends and myths, as well as paradise, are used as a base for depicting ideas of Marriage. Therefore, these stories make the reader float into the world of fantasy filled with mythological characters and forget reality for a moment.

As it was mentioned before, from first glance, the author uses mythology to get away from reality. However, if the reader looks further, they will see the image of an average couple’s routine life in the 20th century. For example, she pictures Eve as a beautiful woman who knows many languages and is humble, which are the main demands for women of that time. Similarly, Adam is a confident man who cares about politics, his influence, and power as a ‘true’ man (Moore). They both expect each other to be the proper representative of a man and a woman following the social standards. The writer illustrates them as egoists who love themselves more than each other. They care only about playing their role but not about their feelings and devotion to each other. Hymen, she mentions, would be powerless towards the modern notions of Marriage (Moore). Thus, the author tries to show the problems of married couples of her time by resembling it through well-known romantic fables.

Moore uses a lot of symbolism in the text to convey her opinion on Marriage. This literary device helps ordinary things or concepts to express a more profound message which can be embellished. The ‘apple’ is mentioned several times in the poem, and it serves as a sign of people’s temptations and sins. As an illustration, Moore talks about Eve’s desire to grasp an apple, as well as Hercules’s quest to obtain golden apples, to represent how people often fall into temptations, and nobody is perfect and flawless in the real world. Poison is a symbol that is used to demonstrate the toxic relationship of spouses after years of Marriage.

The next notable symbolism in Moore’s work is ‘water’ used to depict mood changes after living together. For instance, the reader can view in lines:

“the industrious waterfall,
the speedy stream
which violently bears all before it,
at one time silent as the air
and now as powerful as the wind,”

that the peace and harmony at the beginning of the marriage are replaced with dissatisfaction and demanding behavior (Moore). Liberty is one of the main topics the poem tries to cover. The writer makes fun of the concept “Liberty and union now and forever” since people lose their freedom after the wedding, and wives are often restricted in open actions (Moore). Consequently, the author efficiently adds symbols to her poem to improve the perception of the reader about the real circumstances of people in marriage.

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Finally, there are many metaphors that help Moore explain the essence of the roles of husband and wife. From the first lines, the author speaks about the marriage being an enterprise, “This institution, perhaps one should say enterprise,” which refers that the culture of marriage became more of social duty and a matter of business to get better life rather than a bond between two close souls. The poem has especially many metaphors that characterize a woman. For example, Adam says, “a wife is a coffin,” referring that women become unlively vessels to their husbands after their hearts’ conquest (Moore). He also thinks of women as poison who make husbands’ lives miserable and unbearable.

In a similar way, Eve is disappointed of her husband and describes him as a butterfly when she says in lines: “she wonders what to do with the butterfly that landed on her hand and plans to settle there for life” (Moore). This shows that her husband is impractical as a butterfly and does not know what benefit she can get from him. Adam states the opposite by calling a husband a lion since he is an earner, whose meal is often stolen by his wife (Moore). Accordingly, the metaphors play a crucial role for readers to imagine things in different forms that may complicate realism. Nevertheless, they assist in seeing the real-world concept at a deeper level, improving the understanding of the meaning. As a result, the writer does not have to be direct in their explanations to reach realism.

To sum up, the writers try to make their stories realistic so readers can relate to their works. Many elements can strengthen or weaken realism in different ways. It might seem Moore uses mythology, symbolism, and metaphors to drift the readers afar from reality. Conversely, she represents the problems of marriage in the actual world through these devices. The mentioned elements work together in disrupting realism in a way that they use non-existent or exaggerated things but, at the same time, in achieving actuality if they are the reflections of real cases. Hence, she achieves realism in her poem because she does not illustrate the perfect relationship of couples as it is often done in mythologies and fairy tales but instead shows the true colors of Marriage. Thus, although the writer does not use explicit language to describe the poem’s theme, it enhances the more in-depth understanding of the work and its relation to reality.

Works Cited

Baldick, Chris. The Oxford Dictionary of Literary Terms. 3rd ed., Oxford University Press, 2008.

Moore, Marianne. “Marriage by Marianne Moore.” Famous Poems, Famous Poets, 2020. Web.

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