Term Paper: Mixed Company by C. Rucker

Pages: 8 (2204 words)  ·  Style: MLA  ·  Bibliography Sources: 1  ·  Topic: Literature  ·  Buy This Paper

¶ … Mixed Company" by C. Rucker

"Mixed Company," by C. Rucker, is a free verse poem that delves into death from a unique perspective - a dog's. From this point-of-view, we can see how deep grief runs in the soul, whether or not that soul is animal or human. Through a series of literary techniques, the poet looks at death and loss through a different set of eyes. These eyes help us understand the power of loss and, as a result, the power of grief. Nothing can prepare us for loss or grief and the innocent dog struck by a sniper's bullet is a perfect metaphor for what the poet is attempting to express. No one is safe from life's events and the emotions they bring to us. The best that we can hope for is the ability to cope in the healthiest way possible - and we might be able to learn that from man's best friend.

Perhaps the most powerful literary technique the poet employs is imagery. Through imagery, the poet allows us to see suffering through the eyes of a dog. While this may sound silly, the poet makes it work masterfully. She begins by first allowing us to see the dog and then allows us to see how the dog copes with loss. We see the dog waiting for the poet's mother at the door and we see him as he begins to tear the seat in the pickup. We can also see the "scratches on the inside of the doors" (Rucker 21) when he begins to miss her daily. In addition, we see the dog leaving "offerings" in darkened hallways for the poet's father to step on. Shreds of carpet, Kleenex, and towels are visual clues to the dog's emotional state. In addition, we see how the dog is so distraught by loss that the poet's father feels compelled to take him to the veterinarian. These images are concrete and they help us see what it is we need to see. In this case, the poet wants us to see the animal and his suffering.

Other literary techniques help us see what is happening in the poem. The poet uses simile when she speaks of the mother's dog being like "Anubis, a dog of ashes" (2). In Egyptian mythology, Anubis was a god with the head of a jackal whose responsibility was to lead the dead to their judgment. Here, the poet envisions the dog as being the protector, leading his master on to the afterlife. The poet is making an allusion when she says, "I correct the scales,/tell the tiller to take her to Elysium" (13), a reference to a place for blessed individuals to go after they have died. With these lines, the dog is given an almost superhuman stature. While this may seem unusual, it is fitting in the sense that the poet is actually attempting to convey the dog's sense of loyalty with these images. The poet does not lead her mother to the afterlife - nor does her father - it is the loyal dog that is there for her. With this image, we have a poignant picture of allegiance. We have an example of apostrophe with the afterlife scene as the poet imagines the keeper of the gates at Elysium correcting the scales and giving direction as to where the dog's master should go. This is the only moment in the poem where the poet takes a moment to touch on the personality of her mother. Clearly, the poet does not know with certainty where her mother will go but she is fully confident that she will go to a pleasant place.

In addition, to imagery, simile, allusion, and other techniques, we also have personification with the dog as well. The poet gives the dog very human characteristics - one of the most interesting is that of prescience. The dog is so intelligent that he "strews garbage on his side of the bed" (27). In addition, the poet tells us that the dog is "honest." Again, the dog seems to possess superhuman powers when it comes to dealing with his grief. He knows where on the floor to leave messes as to receive attention and, in his own way, is more honest than the father because he is at least reacting to what has happened. These scenes also show us how the poet feels about the dog. We do not know if the poet loves the dog but we do not need to know to understand that poet has respect for this creature because he is coping the best way he knows how. While the poet shows no emotion toward either the parents or the dog, we see that she has seen something real in the dog that represents coping.

Other literary devices are present that help us see the dog. Denotation occurs when the poet gives us description of the dog. This works in conjunction with the imagery the poet provides. We can almost see the dog with his ears perked up "jackalesque behind the cabin door" (4). He is a basenji, a breed notorious for tearing up things. We even know his name, J.D., and he has all the normal characteristics of dogs with perky ears watching the father move about to leaving little surprises for him in shadowy places of the cabin. We see connotation with the absence of the word death. The poet never writes this word and we must read between the lines to figure it out. The poet also utilizes connotation with how the mother dies. We can assume it was drowning but it is never plainly stated. The poet also illustrates how the unspoken word is very powerful and often leaves a greater impact that any words we might red or hear. We have to guess as to the cause of death but because we do not know does not mean that we cannot understand why the dog is acting out.

While death is subject of the poem, it is not completely stated. Additionally, while we must imagine what the poet is saying, we must also try to comprehend what the poet is saying about grieving dogs. Metonymy occurs with concept of death and passing over is expressed through the dog's point-of-view. The poet believes that the dog becomes aware when his master is taken from Earth to Elysium. The poet also assumes to know that the dog's owner has passed on to where the blessed individuals go - a heaven, if you will. While we are discussing the afterlife, we cannot forget that the entire poem is an allegory in that it is a representation of the spiritual process of grief as seen through the dog's experience. Although we do not know what a dog feels when it experiences the death of a loved one, the poet makes an excellent guess as to what a dog might feel - expressed with tearing up carpet and towels. These coping mechanisms may seem like the dog is just misbehaving but, on a deeper level, we know that they are more than that. It makes sense when we think about it and the poet even goes as far as to admire the creature for his "clarity with symbols" (37) because there are many people that do not have the ability to express themselves this coherently.

Symbolism, metaphors, understatement, and overstatement are also among the techniques the poet employs to convey her message. A symbol can be seen when the dog "lays an offering" (22) for the poet's father. This offering is strategically placed where the father steps, as if to be a constant reminder of his loss. This symbol is very powerful in that while it may just seem like a pile of excrement, it is actually the dog's cry for attention. Even the tearing up of seats, towels, and tissues are metaphors for suffering. The dog is missing something in his life and he wants the poet's father to love him the way her mother did and his means of destroying things is the only way he knows to get attention. An example of a metaphor can be seen with the dog. He becomes a metaphor of grief and coping. The poet acknowledges this fact and we should, too, because the dog is a simple creature that obviously copes with a tough issue the best way that he can. The poet utilizes overstatement when she says that the dog waits until her father goes for a beer and "begins his destruction" (17). The dog does not destroy in the sense of real destruction. In other words, the dog's sense of destruction could never be confused with the destruction that occurred on September 11, 2001. The understatement in this is the father's suffering. It is scarcely mentioned though we must know it is great. While the poet does not address the father's mental state directly, we can get a general idea of what… [END OF PREVIEW]

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