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Essay on Language, Imagery, and Symbolism in To Be of Use

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Use of Language, Imagery, and Symbolism to Develop the Theme of To Be of Use

In the minds of most people, the words, "hard work" and "heavy labor" carry a negative connotation. What these words imply is not something that is generally welcomed with enthusiasm but is often accepted either by force or obligation. Marge Piercy's poem "To Be of Use" conveys an opposing connotation about the idea of work. The central theme of the poem is that satisfaction, gratification, and self-fulfillment can be attained by using one's capabilities to serve a functional purpose in life, for it is the opinion of the speaker that an idle existence has no value or significance because it is worthless, vain, futile, and
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Piercy continues her description of "the people [she loves]" in the second stanza to further shape the theme. With the statement, "I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart..." (8), Piercy indicates with a metaphor that she is fond of people who manage burdensome tasks which seem to require super-human strength without the facilitation of alternative more convenient methods of completing them. By including the details "people who harness themselves" in this line, Piercy implies that what makes these people so honorable is that they are ready and willing to become the "ox"; they do not need to be coaxed or forced to commit themselves to a task. Piercy adds that those whom she respects "pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,..." (9). Here Piercy's simile conveys that although they are heavy laden, they remain dedicated and devoted to their aims. When Piercy describes that they "Strain in the mud and muck to move things forward,..." (10), the words "mud and muck" become symbols of the obstacles and unfavorable conditions that Piercy's favorite type of people often have to contend with while working. Despite such discomfort and inconvenience, with grand effort, determination, and persistence, they persevere and accomplish their goals. In addition, Piercy relates that she
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