In the last stanza of "Exile," the speaker uses a simile comparing Papi and herself to two swimmers. Why do you think the poem conclude like this?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is vital to realise that this poem explores the mixed feelings of the speaker and her father at having arrived in America. Although they have left a place of danger and insecurity behind them, they feel overwhelmed by the vast differences between their new home and their old. The speaker says how they desperately were "trying hard to feel luckier / than we felt." As the speaker sees the reflection of herself and her father, she says that they were "big-eyed" and "dressed too formally" indicating the way that they are "visitors to this country." The lst stanza then is appropriate in the way that it captures the mixed emotions of relief and happiness, but also of feeling uncomfortable, bewildered and that you will never fit in:

Or like, Papi, two swimmers looking down

at the quiet surface of our island waters,

seeing their faces right before plunging in,

eager, afraid, not yet sure of the outcome.

The comparison is apt and appropriate: Papi and the speaker are just like two swimmers from their home starring at their own reflections, being both excited about what is to come but also afraid about not being able to see what will happen. The speaker and her father stand at a very uncertain point in their lives where they are unable to see how the future will develop for them, and when they are filled with mixed emotions. The simile at the end of the poem helps shed further light on this state, making it an appropriate way to end this meditation on exile.

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