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Help on paraphrasing each stanzas of the song At Seventeen by Janis Ian, my teacher...

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jnchow | Student, Grade 11 | eNoter

Posted June 12, 2012 at 12:16 AM via web

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Help on paraphrasing each stanzas of the song At Seventeen by Janis Ian, my teacher said find poetic devices in each stanza and you'll find the meaning.?!

I learned the truth at seventeen
That love was meant for beauty queens
And high school girls with clear skinned smiles
Who married young and then retired
The valentines I never knew
The Friday night charades of youth
Were spent on one more beautiful
At seventeen I learned the truth

And those of us with ravaged faces
Lacking in the social graces
Desperately remained at home
Inventing lovers on the phone
Who called to say - come dance with me
And murmured vague obscenities
It isn't all it seems at seventeen

A brown eyed girl in hand me downs
Whose name I never could pronounce
Said - pity please the ones who serve
They only get what they deserve
The rich relationed hometown queen
Marries into what she needs
With a guarantee of company
And haven for the elderly

So remember those who win the game
Lose the love they sought to gain
In debentures of quality and dubious integrity
Their small-town eyes will gape at you
In dull surprise when payment due
Exceeds accounts received at seventeen

To those of us who knew the pain
Of valentines that never came
And those whose names were never called
When choosing sides for basketball
It was long ago and far away
The world was younger than today
When dreams were all they gave for free
To ugly duckling girls like me

We all play the game, and when we dare
We cheat ourselves at solitaire
Inventing lovers on the phone
Repenting other lives unknown
That call and say - come on, dance with me
And murmur vague obscenities
At ugly girls like me, at seventeen

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tinicraw | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

Posted June 18, 2012 at 11:50 AM (Answer #1)

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With these lines, focus on imagery to help you find the poetic devices used. Remember that imagery uses the five senses of touch, taste, sight, sound, and smell. Phrases like "beauty queens" and "clear skinned smiles" uses sight to present the message that only the beautiful receive love. In the second stanza, "murmured vague obscenities" refers to sound. Murmuring is usually an argumentative sound; couple that with obscenities and that can't be anything good. This leaves a bullying feel to the message. The author also uses allusion to make references to what she went through at that time in her life. For example, the fifth stanza talks about not being chosen when it was time to divide up teams for basketball. This reference is one that most everyone can relate to since it is something we've all been subjected to in PE classes or games being played on the playground when growing up. Picking apart one phrase at a time and placing into a category from one of the literary terms seems to help me when I've stuck wondering. The links below will take you to other literary terms that might help.

Sources:

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