Tuesday, November 26, 2013

It’s the Difference of Night and Day

          Creative style is used to make a sensible flow throughout a piece of writing. There are so many different rhetorical devices that can be used to do this in an effective way. The First Night by Billy Collins uses multiple of these devices to link together his thoughts. The poem makes an attempt at trying to understand death. Dying is such a dark and twisted topic to dive deeper into through this interesting portal. Collins goes down a path of wonderment trying to find answers to many questions. What is death? What happens after death? Who is most impacted by death? The poem opens up all of these questions and leaves them open to interpretation by the reader. The poem ends by telling readers everywhere to enjoy life while it lasts.
According to poetryfoundation.org, Billy Collins is known for his witty poems that bring about new conversations on topics. Collins tries to understand ideas from different angles and find new ways of thinking and coping. He uses this analysis style in his poetry to keep his readers engaged and thinking throughout his works. Collins tries to write his poems to the person that he imagines he is talking to in the room. He is very careful in the beginning of the poem to try and establish a friendly relationship with the reader. This text is written to involve the writer and reader. The writer is looking to motivate the reader to become consumed with thoughts about death, dying, and those that the reader has lost. From that point, he attempts to create a logical path of thinking from a simple idea of the dead to understanding that the living should be happy with what they have been given in life.
The poem begins with a quote by Juan Ramón Jiménez, another poet. “The worst thing about death must be the first night.” Jiménez sets the tone for the poem with the first question being asked. Jiménez wrote this quotation in a poem that he published while struggling with his father many years after the lost. The author lost his father at the age of eighteen and was left to fend for himself. The pain of this loss was with him throughout his life, but it subsided some in later years. Now we ask, is it the worst night for the deceased or the loved ones left behind? With this question already in mind, the audience is thinking about death and the experiences they have had with it, as they entered into the poem.
Collins uses his classic writing style in this poem like many others to come before and after it. With the help of many devices, he creates a good flow for his reader to follow. Rhetorical devices can be effective when used in a proper way. When looking at a creative style piece of writing, it can be called effective if all of the points are made clear and understandable. Ideas are made clear with a good flow that connects all of the parts together. Some of the devices used are analogy, personification, allusion, and exemplum.
The analogy in the poem is comparing life to death. The title starts this analogy: three words that can mean two things. Is Collins trying to speak on the first night of life or death? Another analogy in the poem dealing with the stages of life is using the word “death” as if it was its own person or being: “will the dead gather to watch them rise and set”.  This is also an example of personification. Do the dead really watch the sun? Do the have day and night? Personification is giving human like qualities to objects that are not humans. This raises the question of are the dead still humans? There are an extraordinary number of questions that are raised from reading this poem.
An allusion is a passive, indirect reference to something in order to bring it to a reader’s mind without explicitly mentioning the thing: such as hell. Collins writes, “then repair, each soul alone, to some ghastly equivalent of a bed.” This excerpt is taken from a stanza evaluating the first night of death for the deceased. Collins is stating his opinion that on the first night of death that the deceased all spend this night in hell; however, this is not said directly stated. This could be for many reasons. Collins may want to leave it open to different interpretations. For example the stanza could be saying that the first night is like hell in the sense that the deceased is miserable since he had to leave his loved ones.
The last of the rhetorical devices used by Collins is exemplum. Simplistically, exemplum is an example. The example made in The First Night is that the living will never be able to understand about death. Collins has a continuous obstacle with understanding death and the unknown of it. Like everyone else who has ever lived, he wants to understand after we go six feet under the ground. Collins writes, “how can I describe a sun that will shine after death?” Something as simply as the sun raises several questions about what is to come with the inevitable. Will there still be sun, light, warmth after death? Exemplum is correctly used to get the reader to examine the differences between life and death.

This poem by Billy Collins uses rhetorical devices in the creative style well. Collins uses many rhetorical devices that establish a movement through the lines to help create unconscious thoughts for the reader. In the beginning of the poem it is not in the readers’ mind to think about what happens after death, but by the end of the poem, Collins has everyone grateful for the things that we get to enjoy while we are alive. The creative style does this by passively moving from one thought to the next and having them connect in a way that a reader doesn’t notice a change in ideas from stanza to stanza. This is a poem that will forever keeping people thinking and questioning death.

E. West

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