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Summary and Analysis of Breaking

Out by Marge Piercy

Marge Piercy who was born in Detroit, is known as a feminist writer. Her poem,
Breaking Out was first published in the Harbor Review in 1984. The poem portrays the
double oppression faced by a girl, for being a girl child and a child, at the same time.
The poem depicts how the girl wants to break out from the conventional norms of the
society which is responsible for the oppression.
Lines 1-7: These lines describe the first political act led by a girl who is subjected to
endless humiliation and domestic chores. She asks the readers if they want her to tell
them about her first political act. There she describes the circumstances that led her to
take her first act that is to break free from the conventional norms of a patriarchal
society. She mentions about two doors which are usually open and leaning against each
other in a way that seems like they are gossiping and whispering secrets into each
others ears. The two doors are of two opinions for her- one to maintain the status quo
and endure all the humiliation and exploitation; two, to break away from the traditional
rules of a biased society where a woman is ill-treated and is put through limitless
mortifications and thankless domestic chores.
She looks on the different household objects used for carrying out different chores. First,
there is a laundry machine used to wring out or iron damp clothes. It is used to iron
even those clothes which require no ironing like bed sheets, towels and her fathers
Lines 8-14: She looks at an old style vacuum cleaner standing vertical on the ground
with its filter bag stuffed with dust. She recalls the roaring and loud sound made by the
vacuum cleaner when its bag is deflated. She compares her life to that of the cleaner,
she says the sound made by the cleaner shows as if it is tired of dust-suction as she is.
This makes her swear that she would not dust or sweep when she would grow up. She
despicably watches her mother remove the filth each day, accumulated daily due to the
emissions from the factory. The laundry machine and the vacuum cleaner are symbols
of the endless plodding which is a part of a womans life.
Lines 15-21: When the girl reads about Sisyphus in school, she was reminded of her
mother. Sisyphus was a Greek King, who was punished because of showing disrespect
to Zeus and had to toll an immense boulder up a hill, only to watch it roll back down the
hill and had to repeat the action forever. The girl compares Sisyphus to her mom. Her
mom, as a housewife is allocated the duty of many household chores. She has to kneel
down on bare knees to broom and mop out the filth emitted by factories. The poet then
looks at the yardstick, poor in texture and quality. The yardstick has become dusty with
chalk marks used to her mother to measure the length of the hem of clothes to tailor
Lines 22-32: The yardstick is also used to punish the girl by her parents when they find
her mischievous. The girl is brutally beaten up by her parents and she howls and
screams like a railway engine as if the screams would lessen her pain. She says her
mothers blows are fierce while her fathers are longer and harder. There is an irony in
this, because the girls mother who herself is a victim of the patriarchal society is also

the reason of her daughters oppression. After the beatings, she turns her head towards
the mirror to investigate her lashes. The lashes look like mountain ranges on a map,
showing her an escape route. On the other hand, the arteries and veins on her back
remind her of the ridges in the mountains, makes her believe that she would travel one
day to gain independence.
Lines 33-42:
She describes the incident that signaled her entry into adolescence. She talks about the
incident that took place when she was eleven. One day after the beatings from her
parents, she broke the stick which was used for punishing her. She stared at the broken
pieces of the stick and could not believe that it was she who gathered courage to break
it. She wondered how the stick was weaker than her. She says that it was not that after
breaking the stick, she was not beaten by her parents but by destroying the instrument
of her oppression, she has led herself into adolescence. Though, biologically she was
still a child. She realized that there are some things that should be broken, like old
conventions, restrictions put on women. The poet tells us that this story of the girl looks
like the story of someone who lost her innocence, who gained power- the power to
break out from the confinements of the narrow domestic walls and customs. It the
power which makes her promise that she would not be another Sisyphus like her
Form and structure:
Marge Piercy has used free flowing verse to compose the poem Breaking Out. The
free verse allows her enough freedom to say without interruption. Even free verse
depicts the irony that women are not free individuals; they are oppressed and tied to the
conventions of a biased and patriarchal society.
The poem is written in narrative style. She has described day to day occurrences like
ironing, mopping, cleaning, and dusting which suggest the endless humiliations and
domestic chores which a woman is subjected to.
The poet has skillfully depicted the plight of a girl-child through imagery. Following are
the imagery are used in the poem, Breaking Out1.Visual Imagery:
*I am seeing/ two doors that usually stood open
*to see my mother removing daily/ the sludge the air lay down like a snails track
*Id twist my head in the mirror to inspect
2. Sound Imagery:
* .I bellowed like a locomotive/ as if noise could ward off blows
3. Tactile Imagery:
* fingering the splinters I could not believe.
4. Internal Sensation:
*My mother wielded it more fiercely/ but my father far longer and harder
Poetical Devices:
Poetical devices are effectively used in the poem. They are as follows,1.Simile:
*I bellowed like a locomotive
*the sludge the air lay down like a snails track

2. Metaphor:
*factories rained ash
*Id study those red and blue mountains/ ranges as on a map that offered escape
3. Personification:
* two doors that usually stood open/ leaning together like gossips
*sausage bag that deflated with a gusty/ sigh as if weary of housework as I
The speaker in the poem the girl-child compares her mothers endless chores of
mopping and cleaning to a legendary Greek King, Sisyphus.

Significance of the title of the poem,

Do Not Go Gentle into the Good Night
Dylan Thomas was one of the eminent writers of the twentieth century. He believed that
writing was a kind of self-discovery. This belief of his was even reflected in his writings
and his works remained distinctly personal, having metaphorical language, aesthetic
imageries and psychological details. His writings were not only personal but had worldly
themes like birth, death, love and religion.
Do Not Go Gentle Into That Night was written by Dylan Thomas in 1945, when his
father D. J Thomas was seriously ill. The poem was published in his collection, In
Country Sleep, after his fathers death. The poet gives example of four types of menthe wise, the good, the wild and the grave to persuade his father to rebel against the
dying of light and the closing of day. The second stanza describes the attitude and
feelings of wise men who realize that death is approaching. These wise men can be
identified with philosophers and scholars. As these wise men know that death is
inevitable, they do not accept death passively.
Scholars are known and measured by their words. They are not concerned if their
words fail to affect people. They know they still have a long way to go, their many words
are still left unspoken or unwritten and their goals have not been yet accomplished.
Therefore, they hold on to life till the very end to achieve their goals. In the third stanza,
the poet describes how the good men face death. Good here refers to moralists or men
who live an upright life. Dylan Thomas believes that true goodness is composed of
fighting the inevitability of death with all your might and force. In the fourth stanza, the
poet describes the reactions of wild men towards death. These men are too much in
action their whole life and they forget to realize that they are mortal. They waste their
lives in adventures and excitements. They do not give in because they hold on these
adventures to perhaps correct some of their mistakes. The wild men can be a
reference to the poets who captures the beauty of nature and sings the sun in flight.

These men feel they cannot be happy when their total output was an elegy. The fifth
stanza is about the attitude of grave men.
The word grave here has two meaning, seriousness and death. These men realize that
even though they are weak and losing their sight, they can still use their strength to fight
against death. Therefore, these men know they are going to die and so they see the
world with twinkle in their eyes, wanting to see as much as they can before leaving the
world. The final stanza is about the poet addressing his father. The sad height refers to
his closeness to death. The poet asks his father to bless him or curse but to cry with a
lot of passion that is to fight fiercely against death. He pleads him not to give in to death
but to fight against with all your might.
The poem is a protest against the idea of accepting death quietly. It discusses the
various ways to approach death in old age and advocates struggling against death until
the last breath. Though the poem is addressed to a particular person, it has an universal
theme. The poet conveys to the elderly people who are nearing death should not be
discouraged by old age and their approaching death. The poet encourages them to live
every moment of their life and fight against death. They should not mutely accept
whatever comes their way. He wants the elderly to cling passionately to their lives.