In Jaya Savige's "Exchange at Skirmish Point," what is the effect of using the double entendre in the title?

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durbanville eNotes educator| Certified Educator

"Exchange at Skirmish Point" is a poem by Jaya Savige, is a well-known Australian poet. It is contained in his Latecomers collection and like most of Savige's poems, the whole poem is intended to challenge the reader. It becomes apparent that Savige hopes that the reader will find the depth of meaning in its words. Everything in life is open to interpretation depending on the person and the situation, and Savige is intent on revealing that. The title is a good place to start in getting the full benefit of what he writes.

An exchange is usually a motivated decision to swap or replace an item and to receive something of equal value in return. Savige makes this clear when he quotes from Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics: "That which is exchanged should be capable of comparison." However, exchange has a subtle meaning in this title, as an exchange can be an altercation and the fact that Savige uses the word "skirmish" in his title alerts the reader to its possible alternate interpretation. A skirmish is an unscheduled and confrontational encounter. By stating the intended use of exchange by quoting from Aristotle and by giving the word another potential meaning by linking it with skirmish, Savige introduces the reader to the possibilities inherent in language and the need to question traditional meanings and intentions. One person's exchange may be less than appealing to the next person, and understanding that goes a long way in interpreting this poem. Thus the double meaning in the title adds intrigue to the interpretation.