Are there any there language techniques (humour, parody, direct speech, puns, languages other than English, or old fashioned vocabulary) in the poem "Smalltown Dance" by Judith Wright?

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kplhardison's profile pic

Posted on (Answer #1)

There are a number of language techniques that Wright employs in "Smalltown Dance." One is indirect speech. This is seen in the second stanzas in which the sheets, the "corridors of white," are given voice and speech through personification. The sheets speak to the little girl that the narrator once was, as she describes herself and her childhood game of "Out of Sight," in the first and second stanzas. The sheets tell her that spiritually, she is as clean and fresh as they are after their Monday morning scrubbing. They also tell her that if she runs quickly, before she is seen running, she can escape the yard and play in the meadows of green:

clean corridors of hiding, roof with blue-
saying, Your sins too are made Monday-new; and see, ahead
that glimpse of unobstructed waiting green.
Run, run before you're seen.

There is also humor of a melancholy sort in the first two stanzas. It is amusing to hear about the girl's game and about the "ancient dance" of sheet folding. Some of us used to do this dance with our grandmothers in their backyards as sheets came out from under clothesline pegs to be folded once, twice, again, and yet again to that perfect clean white square, still puffy with trapped fresh air.

The iambic rhythm gives the short words too haunting a mood to be really humorous though. The rhythm creates a subtext of its own that points to the last stanza where we learn that the newly folded sheets are puffy with trapped dreams mixed with the fresh air of "waiting green" hope.

There is the old fashioned word "peg" in the last stanza, and there is mild parody in the first stanza. The dance the narrator "calls out" is a mild parody of a square-dance caller's directions at a square dance where dance partners are given step and movement instructions by the caller.

That is an ancient dance:
arms wide: together: again: two forward steps: hands meet
your partner's once and twice.


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