How do Suji Kwock Kim’s specific word choices develop a central idea in her poem, “Monologue for an Onion”?

In “Monologue for an Onion,” Suji Kwock Kim makes the point that there are many things in the world that cannot be known and must be left in mystery, for hunting too deeply for them actually hurts the person hunting. She uses vivid action words, direct address, questions, and intense and almost insulting language to get her point across.

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Let's begin by discovering the central idea of Suji Kwock Kim's poem “Monologue for an Onion.” In the poem, the onion is actually doing the talking, speaking to the person peeling it, layer after layer, and crying in the process. The onion begins with a bit of an apology: “I don't mean to make you cry.” This human is seeking the onion's heart or core, but all she will find is layer after layer, the onion says.

The onion's tone then becomes harder. “Look at you,” it says, “chopping and weeping. Idiot.” The person goes through life the same way, always chopping and weeping, trying to get to the center of something, trying to cut away the layers or draw back the veils, not realizing that the world is only “glimpsed / Through veils.” Still the person tries to get to the heart of everything, “hungry to know where meaning / Lies.” Yet this is not possible, and the person is actually cutting herself to the heart trying to figure everything out. Some things cannot be known. Some veils cannot be ripped away. Some layers cannot be pealed. They must be accepted. Here is the poet's main point.

The poet's word choices support this main point. She speaks much about peeling, slashing, chopping, ripping, and cutting. This is what the human is doing to the onion and also trying to do to the world. She ends up doing it to herself. Notice how vivid and strong these words are. They are active words that work on more than one level in the poem.

Notice, too, how the onion calls the human “Idiot” and “Poor fool.” It also tells her “Enough is enough.” The onion is trying to get the human's attention and wake her up with intense language that is almost insulting.

Finally, the onion speaks directly to the human using the second person personal pronoun “you” and even asking questions. After claiming that the world is only “glimpsed / Through veils,” for instance, the onion asks, “How else can it be seen?” The onion is trying to get the human to think. It challenges her to answer and, in so doing, to come to a realization about the nature and the mystery of things.

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