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Making a Fist

In: English and Literature

Submitted By penguin27
Words 1008
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Making a Fist

In Naomi Shihab Nye’s poem “Making a Fist”, she looks back on her childhood memories and her obstacles in life. She asks her mom how you know when you are going to die, and her mom says when you can’t make a fist anymore. Later in life, she continues to make a fist just as a reminder that everything is okay. In the poem, Naomi uses figurative language, different points of view, and an interesting title all to tie in the story.
The speaker in this poem is a woman reflecting back on her life when she was seven, and reminiscing the moment. The poem starts off in the perspective of a seven year old girl in the back seat of her mom’s car, when she discovers that you are dying when you can no longer make a fist. The poem continues on and develops to be in the perspective of the same girl, but much older. She reflects on the times when things were much simpler. The woman has matured, and to that day she remembers what her mom told her. When she says, “I, who did not die, who am still living,” she is saying that she has overcome obstacles since she was young, and that she will continue to overcome them. I think that the girl in this story is Naomi, the author of the poem. I think this because Naomi is such a personal writer, and the way she is with words just makes it seem so realistic. I think that the only way she could get across such an amazing message is that if it happened to her. Although, this message that she is getting across can be perceived in many different ways. In my own opinion, I believe the whole poem is about death and staying strong.
There were many lines in this poem that stood out to me, and that I could not quite get the message from. Generally in poems and stories, the way you perceive a sentence can change your whole outlook on the poem. For example, when the author says that the mother and daughter have been on the road for days, it makes me wonder where they are going. The first thing that comes to mind for me is a funeral. Since the main idea of the poem is that you know you are dying when you can no longer make a fist, you’d think that death would be the “event” that brought up the main idea/question in the first place. Since I believe that the poem is based off of death, that leads me to read every line differently. For example, “My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.” Is she nervous? Does she think that she will die soon? Is this her first realization that death is real? Also, when the author says, “the boarders we must cross separately” I wonder if she is thinking about the death of the person she experienced when she was seven. Or, was she talking about the daily struggles you go through in life? Like I said, perception is the key to a poem, and it is all about that first thought you have when you read the poem for the first time.
The title of this poem may at first make you think it is about a physical fight, and standing up for yourself. But, as you read the poem, you will come to realize it is more about an emotional fight, and fighting obstacles in your life. The main idea of this poem is that you are only dying if you can no longer make a fist. Later in the poem, the narrator continues to make a fist, just to remind her that she is okay. I think the title contributes to the poem majorly because it gives you a completely different outlook on the poem. Once you read the poem a few times, you may develop a different perception, and the title will make more sense to you. One of the other things that really tie the whole poem together is the author’s use of figurative language.
There are many types of figurative language used in “Making a Fist”. There were two metaphors that I felt as though they really pieced the poem together. For example, “A drum in the desert, harder and harder to hear.” This line represents how far she feels from home, and even as though she may be feeling homesick. Another metaphor that really stood out to me was, “My stomach was a melon split wide inside my skin.” I think this line represents that she may be feeling a little nervous about the trip she was going on. Or, once again, she may have been feeling homesick. Out of all the examples of symbolism in the poem, the way she talks about borders is my favorite. When she says, “The borders we must cross separately,” I think she is talking about obstacles, not state borders. She may be referring to the death she may have had in her family, or she may have been referring to daily life obstacles such as passing tests, arguments, getting a job, etc. I think that that example of symbolism shows the most about what the poem is all about- believing in you. The theme of this poem has a lot to do with inner strength. The best thing that you could possibly do when you feel like you can’t go on is to make a fist. Just to have that little reminder that you will be okay.
I think that Naomi wrote the poem in a perfectly fluent and organized way. She used figurative language, a somewhat suspenseful/confusing title, and different points of view to put together an amazing piece of literature. “Making a Fist” shows a lot of courage and self- belief and is a perfect example for all ages. I recommend this poem to anyone who feels like they are going through a tough time.

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