How do literary devices contribute to the overall theme of Liz Lochhead's "The Choosing"?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Liz Lochhead's poem "The Choosing" centers upon two girls, the narrator and Mary, who grow up in similar circumstances with seemingly similar goals but who take very different paths in life, not necessarily paths of their own choosing. The narrator, even as a young adult, views herself as Mary's competitor, but Mary seems blissfully unaware of the competition and does not even notice the narrator when they are on the same bus ten years later.

Lochhead's use of inversion stresses the narrator's need to feel equal with Mary. Instead of beginning lines with the standard construction of "Mary and I," the poet begins Stanzas 1 and 2 with

"We were equal Mary and I / . . . Best friends too Mary and I."

This structure shows the narrator's need to clarify who is equal, who is a best friend. It is as if she is trying to convince herself that Mary and she truly are equal best friends. Similarly, Lochhead's repetition of words such as "equal," "common," and "same," illustrate the narrator's struggle to believe that she is no different from Mary--she is just as good if not better than Mary.

Finally, the author's structural decision to tie the narrator to books in the opening and concluding stanzas stresses the narrator's loneliness and escapism. In Stanza One, the narrator's attempt to compare herself to Mary is set in the library where Mary and she clamor for the librarian's attention. In Stanza Six, the narrator seems to retreat back into her world of books to assure herself that her imaginary world is better than Mary's real one.