consumption

consumption - Heather Wilson English 50 12/5/07 HE WOULD...

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Heather Wilson English 50 12/5/07 H E W OULD E AT THE W ORLD TO U TTER IT : The theme of eating in “The Cleaving” A BSTRACT This essay explores the various utilizations of the theme of eating in Li-Young Lee’s poem “The Cleaving.” Eating serves as the thematic glue which creates cohesion and linearity in the poem. The consumption of ethnic foods serves as a marker for ethnic identity and heritage. The social act of eating is used to describe the communal identity of Lee’s family and friends. As the poem progresses, the eating metaphors become broader in their significance. Lee begins to express his desire to devour people, and the various metaphorical implications of this voracious urge are explored throughout this essay. Ultimately, eating serves as evidence of the violent cycle of mortal life and death, and the context of food and consumption allows the speaker of the poem to address his own mortal fears and achieve momentary spiritual transcendence. This essay explores the flowing expansion of the eating metaphor throughout the poem and how it culminates into a greater understanding of the poem’s message. E SSAY In his poem “The Cleaving,” Li-Young Lee explores the cycle of life and death through descriptions of eating, sex, and spiritual contemplations. The speaker of the poem is a Chinese immigrant whose internal dialogue narrates the poem as he watches a butcher prepare a duck and fish for purchase. As the speaker waits for his purchase he
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mentally celebrates the act of food consumption, suggesting that this behavior is satisfying not only carnally but also spiritually. Throughout the poem, Lee explores various facets of consumption, including its inherent violence, its communal and ethnic implications, and its relationship with mortality and death. Ultimately, Lee acknowledges that in the face of death and the unknown afterlife, one has little choice but to embrace consumption joyfully and thankfully as one of the great pleasures inherent in mortal life. The theme of eating coheres the various moods and ideas of the poem into one unified, flowing construct. The violence involved in the consumption of animal flesh is underscored in this poem through graphic imagery. From the very first stanza of the poem, Lee bombards the reader with intense imagery of dead animals at the butcher’s shop. A whole hog used for roast pork is personified through engenderment and facial expressions when Lee describes: “her shining face grinning up at the ducks” (12-14). This personification emphasizes the fact that the hog used to be a living creature whose life has been taken in order for her flesh to be consumed. Likewise, the graphic description of the ducks’ preparation, “each pierced by black 2
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hooks through breast, bill, and steaming from a hole stitched shut from the ass,” (15-19) conveys to the reader the violence inherent in the preparation of meat. Although Lee does not explicitly critique the morality of the omnivorous diet, he reminds the reader
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This note was uploaded on 04/08/2008 for the course ENGL 50 taught by Professor Lim during the Winter '07 term at UCSB.

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consumption - Heather Wilson English 50 12/5/07 HE WOULD...

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