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What is the literary device used in these lines from "Four Skinny Trees"?...

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popished | Student, Grade 10 | eNoter

Posted October 29, 2008 at 11:54 AM via web

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What is the literary device used in these lines from "Four Skinny Trees"?

Here are the lines:

They are the only ones who understand me. [Personification??]
I am the only one who understands them.

Four skinny trees with skinny necks and pointy elbows like mine. Four who do not belong here but are here. [Personification??]
Four raggedy excuses planted by the city. From our room we can hear them, but Nenny just sleeps and doesn't appreciate these things.

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ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted October 29, 2008 at 11:44 PM (Answer #2)

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The major device used at the beginning of the poem is personification. The trees have "skinny necks" and "point elbows". Cisneros then uses a simile to compare the trees to herself (like mine). Thus the trees become a metaphor for herself and her sisters. "They are ragged excuses planted by the city. Personification and metaphor is continued in the second stanza. When Cisneros writes, "They sent ferocious roots...and grab the earth..and never quit their anger," she is not only personifying the trees but also making them a metaphor for herself and the anger she feels.

In the third stanza, Cisneros continues using metaphor to suggest that if the trees (or she and her sisters) are removed from the tree (or her family) they will "droop like tulips (simile) with their arms around each other." In other words, they stand together in times of trouble.

In the final stanza, Cisneros continues the metaphor between herself, her sisters, and the trees. "When I am a tiny thing against so many bricks it is then I look at trees." Bricks can be used to walk on and also can be thrown at people. The implication is that when she faces problems and, perhaps prejudice, she remembers the trees and how their only reason was "to be." In other words, she has a right to live like the trees and needs no reason to make excuses for her life.

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