Analysis Of Literary Devices In The Poem “Tearaway” By Winona Linn
When one is little, one may often feel beaten down by the social or emotional pressures of peer acceptance and believe that owning a certain object will determine one’s fate. Owning this object becomes one’s focus, dream or obsession and is often linked to heart break and negative self-esteem. In the poem “Tearaway” by Winona Linn, the poet demonstrates that no matter how many times one fails at achieving one’s dream, one must never give up as eventually it will lead to success. The poet shows this theme through the use of colloquialism, allusion and repetition. The poet demonstrates theme with the use of the literary device colloquialism; words that are not formal, or literary, typically used in ordinary day-to-day conversations of most readers.
Colloquialism is used in “Tearaway” to help the poet connect to and inspire younger readers. Phrases such as “He was a dumbass anyway” use language familiar to young readers to engage readers and to illustrate the point in a understandable method. In this phrase the term “dumbass” conjures up a specific set of negative characteristics of the person (such as stupid and not important) known in modern language to quickly convey to the reader the author’s perception of the character. In this case it also shows how the character tries to hide her disappointed feelings by instead characterizing the male negatively (i.e., as a “dumbass”) to soften the blow of his rejection of her invitation to the dance. Another colloquialism used to make speech between two people more realistic and relatable to the select audience is the phrase “I said I dunno”. In more formal pieces of poetry, poets would most likely use the proper version of the word (I don’t know). However, Winona Linn purposely chose a colloquialism or slang to further remind the reader of the age and mindset of the character.
This colloquialism is also an important illustration of the mindset of the 9 year old main character as children will say “I dunno” as an excuse to not have to embarrass themselves in trying to explain their feelings and circumstances. Colloquialism is an effective literary device to relate to the readers and to illustrate the age and mindset of the author, further connecting readers of all ages to the thoughts and beliefs of the author as a younger child.
An additional effective use of a literary device to make the theme evident to the reader is the use of allusion; an implied reference to something everyone should know. Similar to colloquialism, allusion is used to connect to the reader, in this case, with a shared image or experience. The use of the term “praying she’ll be lucky like Peter Parker” quickly takes the reader to the human form of the super hero Spider Man and his luck when he transformed from an awkward young boy bullied by others to a well-respected character. Peter Parker is lucky in that he develops superhero powers to make him feel confident and better able to handle challenges successfully, but interestingly, most people do not know that Peter Parker is Spider Man so he is still able to lead a normal life most of the time. In the comics Peter Parker is also considered lucky because when he became Spider Man he had the girl of his dreams fall in love with him, as she barely noticed him when he was human. This allusion helps the reader realize that the author would like to have super powers like Peter Parker so the boy she has a crush on might like her in her superhero form, as he rejects her in her human form. This desire to transform to be like is well-illustrated by the Peter Parker/Spider Man allusion.
Another effective allusion is the comparison of her mother’s message “sticking” to her like a pair of Levis that have to be put on with pliers or sticking so tightly to the human body. Everyone can imagine a pair of jeans that are so tight they look as if they are attached to or painted on the person. Use of the term Levi’s further illustrates the picture as the reader quickly knows Levi’s are jeans and can picture the scene. This allusion suggests that the teaching of her mother will stay as close to her as those tight Levi’s. Allusion is an important literary device that combines familiarity and imagery to have the reader quickly relate to the poem.
Winona Linn further demonstrates theme with the use of the literary device repetition; the recurrence of an action or event. The use of repetition establishes a specific pattern of ideas, or pattern of dialogue between characters, all connected to the main theme of the poem. The specific idea of tearaway pants and how much they are wanted by the main character is emphasized by the author’s repeated use of the words “tearaway pants”. It becomes clear to the reader that it is a very specific type of pants wanted which demonstrates how important they are to the character. Repetition of the term highlights the symbolism of these pants- to the reader they may seem like just pants, but to the author they are actually a method of gaining social acceptance and popularity in her school community. The literary device repetition of the impact of the mother’s message (“my mother has other plans”) to the author is also used to show the frequency with which the mother has to share the same advice to repeatedly pick up the pieces of the author’s frequently broken heart or low self-esteem. Noting with repetition that “my mother has other plans” also means that the author frequently experiences a redirection in her plans due to the wisdom and experience of her mother. Repetition is a subtle but effective literary device used to re-remind the reader of key messages in the poem and their importance to the author.
Theme is demonstrated the use of many literary devices such as colloquialism, allusion and repetition. In the poem “Tearaway” by Winona Linn, the poet demonstrates that no matter how many times one fails at achieving one’s dream, one must never give up as eventually it will lead to success. This message is very important for young readers as it encourages them to persevere through difficult or socially awkward times with the hope that their efforts will lead to future success.
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