Jump Cabling: Connecting Cars and People

April 18, 2019 by Essay Writer

Sometimes a stranger offers to help, sometimes a person is forced to ask a stranger, but when the car won’t start, odds are two strangers are going to meet. Linda Pastan’s 1984 poem, “Jump Cabling,” reveals how the simple act of jump-starting a car may jump-start love. Through repetition, alliteration, simile, metaphor, and a unique structure Pastan creates an uncommon poem that ties a common and mundane occurrence to romance.“Jump Cabling” is a poem about a dead battery, a stranded motorist, and the stranger that stops to help. Presented in eight lines of free verse it is a monologue in which the speaker is never quite identified but seems to be female while the rescuer is presumably male.Repetition and alliteration provide tone and pacing as well as some thematic tie-ins. The word “when” is the first word in lines 1 and 2 and is repeated in lines 4 and 6. Although presented without an inquisitive sense, the repetition of “when” in four of eight lines gives the poem a wistful, expectant tone. The alliteration of the oft-repeated “when” with other “w” words such as “we were,” (4) “woke,” (7) “why,” (8) and “way” (8) provides a flowing pace throughout the poem. In such words as “cars,” (1) “workings,” (3) “pure,” (5) and “energy” (5) the repetition of the “r” sound in twenty percent of the words, twelve of fifty-two, seems to give a subtle background sound of a motor trying to start. In the Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English, Ian Hamilton agrees that Pastan’s work often records “everyday happenings” (Hamilton 400) by using “harmonizing… metaphors.” (Hamilton 400) This is obvious in Pastan’s treatment of “Jump Cabling.” Along with the tale of getting a car to start there is an overall allusion to a fairy-tale throughout the poem. This can be seen most distinctly in the simile “when my car like the princess / in the tale woke…” (Pastan 6-7). Line 5 also states that the energy between the two cars is “pure” (5). Further, in the last line the speaker, rather than say “why not go” says “why not ride….” (8) This choice of wording seems more appropriate to a horse rather than a car, a horse being the usual means of conveyance for the hero in many fairy-tales. Saving the poem from being overly sentimental and fanciful is another metaphor: the understated comparison of jump-starting a car with a sexual or erotic encounter. The cars “[touch,]” (Pastan 1) the mechanical aspects of the car are referred to as “intimate workings,” (3) and the speaker says suggestively that the rescuer lifts “the hood of mine” (2) rather than the hood of the car. When the cars are connected by jumper cables the speaker claims that “[we] were bound together.” (4)Possibly the most intriguing aspect of “Jump Cabling” is its unique structure. The first seven lines of poetry display significant spacing between the first part of the line and the last word or two. This separation of these two groups of words is symbolic of two vehicles separated by a short distance as they are during the act of jump cabling. This is further supported by the last line which has no separation, and, like a pair of jumper cables, joins the two parts. The sense is that it also symbolizes the distance between to strangers connected by chance occurrence.It also must be noted that the separation between the words creates two, or possibly three, different poems: the first part, the second part, and the whole. While the first part read without the second part does not differ significantly from the poem as a whole, the second, or separated part seems to be a poem unto itself. Haiku-esque, or perhaps Modernist-inspired, the second section reads “touched / of mine / underneath / together / energy / princess / start.” This concise poem implies that the speaker’s life as a “princess,” a better life, begins with an intimate touch. Pastan weaves together various poetics to create a poem about failing cars and finding love. The repetition and alliteration used to maintain pacing and to provide a hopeful tone also serves to provide a backdrop of a car engine rumble. Metaphors of fairy-tales and sexuality keep the poem interesting and add suggestions of both pure and erotic human connection. Finally, “Jump Cabling” symbolizes the connection between two cars and two lives by presenting a poem separated at first, but joined together in the end like the individuals described in the poem. Works CitedHamilton, Ian. Oxford Companion to Twentieth-Century Poetry in English. Oxford University Press, 1994. 400. eBook Collection (EBSCOhost). Web. 1 Sept. 2012. Pastan, Linda. “Jump Cabling.” An Introduction to Literature. 16th ed. Sylvan Barnet, William Burto, and William E. Cain. New York: Longman, 2011. 589. Print.

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