Saturday, May 17, 2014

Analysis of "Number 20" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Original poem reprinted online here: "Number 20" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Originally read: October 9, 2013
More information about the Poet: Lawrence Ferlinghetti


This poem has elements of E.E. Cummings with the compound words like "pennycandystore" and the adjusted alignment.  But these techniques add to the core of the poem of "childhood."

     The pennycandystore beyond the El
     is where I first
                 fell in love
                             with unreality

The poem starts out with a narrative hook of "first love" but then that hook is dashed away with "unreality" and so the poem goes towards a a surreal effect, "Jelly beans glowed in the semi-gloom / of that septemeber afternoon / A cat upon the counter moved among"  and here with these lines there's an added sense of ambiance.  Something bright in the bland.  And a "cat moving" indicates more of a transition to something.

                                 the licorice sticks
                    and and tootsie rolls
         and oh boy Gum

Note the descent of the mood which is parallel to how the speaker feels.  Is it too much?  Well, not up until this point "Outside the leaves were falling as they died" which is a good line, but a little bit hyperbolic which is then outdone with, "A wind had blown away the sun."

Why these sudden shifts of moods and images?  "A girl ran in / Her hair was rainy / Her breasts were breathless in the little room"

Note the focus of the image here by the speaker, also note how concrete these images are compared to how the other images are handled.  These lines plus the cat movement lines are the most focused.

     Outside the leaves were falling
                     and they cried
                                 Too soon! too soon!

My automatic thought was "puberty" -- that the loss of innocence ends abruptly here; however, the leaves line refers back to the "outside" line earlier, and the question now being is there something more than puberty being discussed in the lass three lines.

Of course.  But what I don't know since the idea of puberty is so strong in the poem and played up on two hyperbolic extents: candy to sexuality.  But I do know that the repetition of leaves brings a cyclical style to the poem.  Of course this situation repeats itself.

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