Wild Geese, a poem by Mary Oliver, is a compelling literary piece that encourages people to have hope in life, obey natural instincts and have the determination to succeed. The Poem achieves this by employing anaphora, metaphors and simple, standard language as its core literary elements.
The author uses- anaphora- the repetition of a sequence of words at the beginnings of neighboring clauses (online writing lab, n.d.). This is best exemplified in three lines that begin with “you”: “You do not have to walk,” “You do not have to be good,” and “You only have to let” (Oliver, 1986). She also uses “meanwhile” in the same manner: “”Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles,” “Meanwhile the world goes on” and “Meanwhile the wild geese” (Oliver, 1986). Anaphora gives the speaker’s voice a quiet and gentle appeal that appeases the readers, luring them to associate with the message in the poem. Use of anaphora stresses the author’s point of view and also stimulates the intellect of the readers.
The poem is rife with metaphors. To begin with, the title of the poem “wild geese” is symbolic of instinctual nature. Wild geese live in a free world; they rely on each other for survival and have great determination to live in spite of the hardships they encounter. The poem, therefore, uses “wild geese” to urge humans to revert to instinctual nature in order to overcome hardships in life. People should feel that they live in a world of unlimited potential, and they should not be ashamed to be themselves. “Mountains and rivers” are also used symbolically. Mountains are the source of water flowing in the rivers. As rivers rely on mountains to replenish them, so do human beings need their loved ones to help them overcome challenges symbolized by desert. “The sun and the pebbles” are also used metaphorically to mean the refreshment.
The poem employs a simple, standard language to deliver a message to readers. The opening statement, “you do not have to be good” is quite compelling. It creates suspense and urges the reader on. Though the next sentences are relatively long, they are a combination of simple and compelling words. Employment of the second person singular enhances understanding among readers by making them direct targets of the message. To this end, the author has used the words “you” and “yours” in several lines, in the poem. Use of simplistic and compelling language gives the poem a friendly tone which is crucial in influencing readers to heed to its message of hope and encouragement.
In this poem Mary Oliver gently reminds that the circumstances people find themselves in are by design and they always free themselves of those situations by “letting the soft animal of your body love what it loves” (Oliver, 1986). She reminds people that no one is without some despair. Drawing on several aspects of nature, the author urges people not to be ashamed to respond to their environment in a natural and animalistic way.
The use of literary elements compelled me to focus more on the theme of instinctual nature over any other exemplified in the poem. The mention of several aspects and components of nature in the poem such as wild geese, animal, mountains, rivers, prairies, desert, and trees among others influences readers to consider adopting natural, instinctual traits.
Oliver, Mary. Wild Geese. Retrieved 17 September 2012 from:
Online writing lab. Literary Analysis: Using Elements of Literature. Retrieved 17 September
2012 from: http://www.roanestate.edu/owl/ElementsLit.html