An Analysis of To Have without Holding by Marge Piercy

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An Analysis of To Have without Holding by Marge Piercy

The poem "To Have without Holding," by Marge Piercy, is about the speaker trying to reconcile the conflict between her preconceived notion of a personal relationship with present reality. Her partner, whom she must feel worth the pain and effort, apparently has a more liberal and open approach, which causes her to feel insecure. The poem expresses, using metaphor, simile, and symbolism, the speaker's discomfort at a point in time in this emotionally unbalanced relationship. She defines, explains, and personalizes her place in the relationship from a unique and unsettling perspective, while providing a reminder that preconceived notions must eventually be evaluated against one's
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The third stanza goes on to define the pain, only now in more emotional terms, such as "It hurts to thwart the reflexes / of grab, of clutch" (14-15), as well as the pain of continuously having to say good bye, each perhaps as if for the last time: "to love and let / go again and again" (15-16). These lines reinforce the impression that the first stanza's definition of "to love differently" is in fact an anti-freedom or state of emotional anarchy, now using words like "pester" to describe any separation; the poet is compelled "to remember / the lover who is not in the bed" (16), hinting at obsessive tendencies as being possible components of the relationship. We also learn that she believes love requires work, which she cannot do without her partner's assistance, and that this lack of cooperation frustrates her. She believes this neglected effort is the other party's fault by his failure to do his fair share, thereby leaving her own efforts ineffective, the whole of it characterized as an effort "that gutters like a candle in a cave / without air" (19-20). Her demands of this work are quite broad, encompassing being "conscious, conscientious and concrete" in her efforts and optimistically calling this work "constructive" (20-21) before ending the stanza.

Next we begin to see the other side of

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