Edna St. Vincent Millay Questions and Answers

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Can you please give the analysis of the poem "Intention to Escape from Him" by Edna St. Vincent Millay? Include its summary, rhyming scheme, literary devices and meter. 

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If you read this poem aloud, you'll notice that it doesn't have a certain meter; instead, it just sounds like typical conversation or speech without any particular rhythm of rising and falling syllables. Also, take a look at the ends of the lines. You'll note that there aren't many words that rhyme—sing and thing are your best bets, but that really doesn't constitute a pattern. Thus, the poem has no rhyme pattern and no rhythm or cadence—it is written in free verse.

In order to understand the symbolism of the poem, be sure to give the title some thought: "Intention to Escape from Him." Who is "him"? It's not clear, but this unnamed he (maybe even representing a collective group in a patriarchal society) has oppressed the speaker in some way. How do we know?

She is trying to make some choices that stand in direct contradiction to what he expects of her. In the first line, she decides that she may learn beautiful languages simply because they are beautiful—not for commercial gain. Her focus is stepping fully into the arts simply for the intrinsic value they hold and not because she seeks to prove a capacity for financial gain.

She wants to learn the Latin names of every songbird. This animal choice is significant, as songbirds typically symbolize freedom and beauty. This furthers the theme of choosing the arts in a freedom of spirit.

The speaker also wants to shun meditation. Because meditation symbolizes quietness, it also symbolizes in this poem an oppression of her artistic voice. Instead, she longs to engage in controversy. She'd rather have difficult, impossible, and even ridiculous conversations (about whether bats eat cats, the internal rhyme itself a ridiculous syntactical move). She is tired of keeping her voice to herself—likely at the will of the "him" noted in the title.

The speaker uses a metaphor near the end, comparing her mind to a forceful river, capable of making changes. Note the way the river is powerful in spring (which was a former time compared to the "now" referenced in the next lines). Though she has been reduced to a "trickle" of thought through some oppressive acts, she knows that she can still "blast" in creative thought when needed.

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