How does the use of food imagery help convey the theme of ritual in "Early in the Morning"?

There is just the one example of food imagery in the poem "Early in the Morning," and this is the description of the rice cooking in the opening lines. This food imagery helps to convey the theme of ritual in that it helps to show that the family in the poem follows the same pre-breakfast ritual every morning.

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In the poem "Early in the Morning," the speaker describes her family's morning ritual. The speaker begins the poem by describing rice cooking in a pot of water. She says that "the long grain," meaning the rice, "is softening / in the water," and she then describes the water as "gurgling." The speaker then says that once the rice is cooked, a "salted Winter Vegetable" will be added. The sensory language here, describing sights, sounds, and tastes, creates a warm, comforting, domestic tone. This in turn implies that the morning ritual that this family follows is one from which they take comfort.

In the subsequent four stanzas, the speaker describes the rest of the family's morning ritual, which mostly involves the mother combing her hair while perched on the foot of the bed, and then putting her hair into "a bun to the back of her head." The speaker says that the mother has done this with her hair every morning for "half a hundred years."

The food imagery in the opening stanza of the poem establishes a comfortable domestic scene, and this in turn provides the backdrop for the descriptions of the mother later in the poem. The fact that the breakfast is cooking in the kitchen while the mother is combing her hair in the bedroom indicates that this is a woman who can multitask. It also of course indicates that this is a morning, pre-breakfast ritual that the mother has been following for many years and is thus very comfortable and familiar with.

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