How do I analyze Nisim Ezekiel's poem "Enterprise" according to the cooperative principle of pragmatics?

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Noelle Thompson | High School Teacher | eNotes Employee

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In order to analyze Ezekiel's poem in the way you ask, one must first understand the cooperative principle of pragmatics.  Let's figure that out first and then move to the analysis of the poem "Enterprise."

A cooperative principle is any idea that relates the way people interact.  Further, the idea of the cooperative principle is ideally related to both linguistics and sociology.  Here is the basic directive:

Make your contribution such as it is required, at the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of the talk exchange in which you are engaged.

In this regard, pragmatics are important.  It is important not to be biased in analysis by approaching satire or irony.  Sticking to the facts is important.  From this idea, Grice created a list called the "Grician Maxims" (which are Quality, Quantity, Relation, and Manner) to further the explanation.  However, because your question asks about the poem "Enterprise," we will stick to the simple definition.

"Enterprise" is about a journey or a pilgrimage.  Even though the journey is a journey of thought, it is described as the journey from a home in the desert to an unknown land (with many trials and tribulations along the way). 

It started as a pilgrimage, / Exalting minds and making all / The burdens light.

One of the people of the journey (the one who seems most intelligent and uses the most eloquent language) leaves the group and allows them to venture on their own.  This affects the entire pilgrimage.  Can you see how this has to do with the cooperative principle of pragmatics?  This poem is precisely about how these people interact while on their journey!  Look at how this loss affects the travelers:

But when the differences arose / On how to cross a desert patch, / We lost a friend whose stylish prose / Was quite the best of all our batch. / A shadow falls on us and grows.

Eventually, the travelers become inundated with the issues surrounding the journey (such as indifference and fatigue) and, as they become less and less organized, are almost unable to move on with their journey. As a result, they conform their ideas, thoughts, and discussions to only the most banal and trivial things. 

The final ideas are about reaching the destination with grim results.  It turns out that staying at home (or the original and definitive destination) is the better goal. 

Home is where we have to gather grace.

Unfortunately, we learn from Ezekiel that it is our origin that we should cling to instead of embarking on journeys that may lead us into despair through the interactions with others. 

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