Suicide Note by Janice Mirikitani Essay

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Suicide Note

A poem by Janice Mirikitani

A Personal Essay

A suicide note -- real or imagined -- is always painful to read. One wants to reach back in time and tell the speaker that nothing is bad enough to take this ultimate action; your problems are temporary; things will get better. For Janice Mirikitani, her poem is a hand reaching out to all the young Asian girls who may feel the same as her narrator, and the author is an expert on the Asian culture of which she writes. Mirikitani was born in 1941 and was held in an internment camp during World War II. Her poetry has explored Asian-American culture, and here she comes up against one of the most prominent Asian cultural features of our age, the pressure for young Asian students to be perfect. She also addresses the roles of gender in Asian society and the speaker's family in particular.

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Mirikitani uses the prologue to the program to tell us the story behind the poem's speaker. She is Asian-American, a college student and jumped to her death during a snow storm. Her body wasn't found until two days later because the show had obscured it. The prologue is as distant as a news report, which is a sharp contract to the intensely personal nature of the poem. Written in free verse and without rhyme, the poem is divided into nine stanzas. Each of the stanzas describes a particular aspect in which the speaker feels she has fallen short, and the final stanzas detail her plan for suicide and her intended method -- jumping off a roof. She describes being in the snow storm, sitting on the roof of the building, which tells is that these painful lines were written in the moments just before the young woman decided to jump.

Essay on Suicide Note by Janice Mirikitani Assignment

The note is specifically addressed, like a letter, to the girl's mother and father. I apologize/for disappointing you (5/6). She does not feel she is good, pretty or smart enough, despite the fact that she has worked very hard. After reading the entire note, I must admit that I have very little sympathy for her parents. Yes, their daughter committed suicide, and that is always tragic, but if the young girl is a reliable narrator in the poem, then the parents helped create the situation that led to the suicide. She does not meet their expectations of a good student, and she admits that Tasks do not come easily (23). The stereotype, which her parents seem to have bought into, is that Asian-American students are naturally excellent students and pushing them hard to achieve is the best thing for them. The problem with this way of life is that it doesn't allow for the natural difference among children as far as intelligence and learning disabilities, etc. The girl has probably lived all of her life coming up against these expectations and falling short. She works very hard, she says, but the disappointments just keep piling up. Like a glacier, she says, each failure adds to the terrible mountain of the whole, layer upon layer. The young girl feels trapped below the glacier: Each disappointment/Ice above my river/So I have worked hard/Not good enough. Which one of us can't identify with not feeling good enough, not living up to the ideal that we have either set for ourselves or others have set for us? The experience that Mirikitani describes is one we can all empathize with, which makes the girl's choice all the more tragic. The girl is truly human in the eyes of the author and the reader because she shares our universal experience.

Failing at academia, however, is not where I sense the girl's biggest issue lies. The entire third stanza of the poem laments how she is not a boy, a son to her parents. From all indications, her parents have no sons. We don't know how many daughters they may have, but it is clear that they never got their dearest wish, a son. The narrator imagines what her life would have been like had she been born a boy. Not only would she be bigger, physically stronger and no doubt smarter, but she would get the things she has always wanted in… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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