What would a definition of ignorance and knowledge be based on "Suicide Note" by Janice Mirikitani?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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This chilling poem captures the words of a female Asian student just before she kills herself because of her perceived failure. The concepts of knowledge and ignorance are particularly important in this poem, because the speaker shows herself to be ignorant about her own level of abilities, because she always finds herself not good enough. Note the final line of the first stanza that clearly captures the sense that she will never measure up to her own or her parents' expectations of her:

not good enough not strong enough not good enough

This ignorance is also presented in her belief that if she were a "son," rather than a daughter, she would be very different, as a man, she believes, would not suffer from the same self-doubt and lack of confidence as she does:

I would swagger through life
muscled and bold and assured,
drawing praises to me
like currents in the bed of wind, virile
with confidence.

This clearly displays a lack of knowledge, but it also points towards the way that in some cultures daughters are not valued as much as men.

The fact that the speaker chooses to kill herself because of her perceived lack of talent or intelligence shows ignorance to be a quality that can be defined as a lack of self-knowledge demonstrated through unrealistic expectations of oneself. Knowledge, therefore, would be the opposite: a knowledge of your own level of talent and ability and a realistic level of expectation. Knowledge, unfortunately, in this sense, is what the speaker lacks, which leads to her tragic suicide.


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