The Use Of Metaphor In Mary Oliver’s “wild Geese”

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Copyright Category: Publications and Books
Type of Work: Literary
Copyright Holder: Maria Corazon Elgar de la Cruz
Website: http://socyberty.com/philosophy/the-use-of-metaphor-in-mary-olivers-wild-geese/2/
Year Published / Made Public in: 2012
Date Added to Copyright Register: 17-Jul-2012 10:18
Last updated: 30-Sep-2012 22:14

Literary Copyright Work Details:

The Use of Metaphor in Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese”


A thorough and detailed interpretation of the symbolical use of 

metaphor in Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese poem. Alicia Ostriker, major American poet and critic, in her review in 

the Nation describes Mary Oliver’s poetry as moving “from the natural world and its desires, the ‘heaven of appetite’…into the world of historical and personal suffering…” (Ostriker).   In 

“Wild Geese,” Oliver uses metaphor in a 3-in-1 effect: as the central focus of the poem by its placement in its core using words of literal simplicity but rightfully expressed in vivid complexity, as a powerful interlink of two opposite human feelings, and as a gradual surge to the climax transcending slowly yet aiming up again for a surprising twist. Rightfully placed in the middle, the metaphor is sandwiched on a considerate line count – 6 then 5 then 7 — to point the eyes directly to the crux.  From the 1st to the 6th line, the poet delivers it as it is; direct to the point. Yet when it comes to the 8th line onwards, the casual tone is put at a halt:

          Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain      


                 are moving across the landscapes,                 


       over the prairies and the deep trees,                       


 the mountains and the rivers.  (8-11)



The 7th line clearly states the central metaphor of the poem. Both 


the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain as moving things set a 


smooth shift after the 7th line: “Meanwhile the world goes on” 


(Oliver 7). So the sun and the rain represent the elements of 


daily human existence – a decision to either bask in the light or 


get drenched in the rain. The clear pebbles add a positive display 


that the way ahead is almost always visible amidst the outpour. As 


life moves on to the landscapes (the continuous evolvement of the 


earthly background); prairies (the times of love, happiness, 


laughter, success – where life is at its most fruitful) and deep 


trees (the moments of sadness, trials); mountains (the time of 


distinction and being on top of everyone else) and the rivers (the 


time when naturally one has to belong to the majority and just “go 


with the flow”).


Beginning with a simple statement of consolation then a 


confirmation of empathy: “You do not have to be good/ […] / Tell 


me about your despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.” (1,6).  


The concept of frustration leading to sadness is clearly expressed 


in both the tone and the words. Yet this drabness is appropriately 


splashed with bright hues: “Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the 


clean blue air/ […]/in the family of things” (12, 18). The stark 


contrast of the two are equally weighed with the apt metaphor 


serving as an equalizer as well as a dividing line lending more 


impact on the meaning it wants to convey.

 The metaphor also affected as stepping stones to climax; from the 


low point at the very start progressing to the picturesque arising 


in the center and staying high until the finale: “Whoever you are, 


no matter how lonely/the world offers itself to your 


imagination/calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting 


–“ (14-16).


As a highlight in the middle, as a connection point, and as a step 


towards the climax – these show that casual words are not enough 


in expressing the various complexities of human emotions. 


Carefully inserted between simple iterations, the metaphor evokes 


enough aroma to stimulate without the breathless, head spinning 


effect. The creative use of it not only provided the important 


ingredient but more so stirred a familiarity known to human 


beings; capturing the essence in its truest form.        

Work cited:


Ostriker, Alicia. A review of Dream Work, in The Nation, Vol. 243, 


No. 5, August 30, 1986, pp. 148-150. Print.

Literary Keywords/Search Tags:
mary oliver consequences poem, mary oliver wild geese meaning, Mary Oliver's poem, metaphor use of mary oliver, poem meaning, use of metaphor in wild geese

This Literary This work is copyrighted and may be used and/or cited as follows:
The Use of Metaphor in Mary Oliver’s “Wild Geese” by Maria Corazon Elgar de la Cruz. Find out more about the poet @labellacor (Twitter) or add her as a friend at http://www.facebook.com/theadwealthizer. 

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Date Added: 17-Jul-2012 10:19

Submission Details: Literary Work submitted by Maria Corazon de la Cruz from Philippines on 17-Jul-2012 10:18 (Last edited on 30-Sep-2012 22:14).
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Maria Corazon de la Cruz Contact Details: Email: theadwealthizer@gmail.com

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