Themes and Meanings (Masterplots II: Poetry, Revised Edition)
This poem might be misinterpreted if the reader finds its violent imagery gratuitous. Ai’s juxtaposition of the soft materials and the man, who is low-key and caring, with verbs of force and destruction actually reveals the speaker’s adolescent confusion and hurt.
The onset of adolescence brings forth a variety of conflicting emotions that teenagers cannot articulate or understand. Male readers of “Ice” can become sensitive to the fact that preteen and adolescent girls find the onset of menstruation a dynamic physical change and an emotionally terrifying experience. The speaker resents her father for having no need for her, and for casually giving her away to a man who seems to be gentle to her, but toward whom she enacts a displaced violence.
She resents the blood-producing menses, and her anger compels acts of crushing and squeezing. Curiously, the first infant was a girl; the second, a boy, she does not harm. Like the bear’s teeth, this is an intangible detail in the poem. A child herself at twelve or thirteen, the speaker can be interpreted as saving her daughter from “the curse” and the boy for a later vindication.
The sexuality suggested by the obelisks evolves to a less threatening aspect as the speaker’s attitude toward the man softens. The core of distress and anger from stanza 1 through stanza 3 is nevertheless framed by the serenity of stanza 4 and the opening of the poem. Even her mate’s “.45 you...
(The entire section is 269 words.)
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