Examine the details in Lucille Clifton's "There is a Girl Inside" from a reader response criticism perspective.

The details in Lucille Clifton's poem "There is a Girl Inside" urge the reader to see the energy and passion that may hide beneath the appearance of old age. The metaphors and opposing images used by the poet highlight the idea that an aging body does not mean a loss of vitality nor a surrendering of one's purpose in life.

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Reader response criticism is when a reader tries to form his own interpretation of a text by considering its details. In this case, you may want to consider the major metaphors in the poem. The speaker likens herself to things such as a wolf and a green tree. Both are...

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Reader response criticism is when a reader tries to form his own interpretation of a text by considering its details. In this case, you may want to consider the major metaphors in the poem. The speaker likens herself to things such as a wolf and a green tree. Both are images of strength. The fact that the tree is green represents that it is at the height of its beauty and life. However, the speaker also includes contradictory details of herself that imply weakness and decline, such as the fact that she is aging and has "gray hairs." The fact that the author says that "there is a girl inside" helps the reader understand that the woman knows her body and age do not define her true strength and potential. When the speaker says she will not "leave these bones to an old woman,” she is saying that she will not accept the fact that her life is over and that her power is gone. She also indirectly refers to herself as a flower that is in the process of blossoming, meaning that her full potential has not yet been realized.

Another image that implies she sees herself as still capable of doing great things in life is when she mentions that she is a green tree surrounded by a "forest of kindling." Kindling is used to start fires, and with this metaphor she implies that she can still assert her power in the world. She can metaphorically “set the world on fire” with the vitality that still lies inside of her. One detail that adds to this idea is when she mentions a “second coming,” which means she will rise up and show the world that she is not yet done growing and achieving. Though she references herself as a “used poet,” the fact that she says there is a “green girl” living inside of her seems to send a message that the aging of the body does not imply a loss of passion, purpose, or energy in an individual. Though the body gets older, the energy and enthusiasm of life remain.

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