Please analyse the uses and effects of imagery in the poem "The Secretary Chant. How does the poem appeal to the senses?

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choucksolace eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In her poem "The Secretary Chant," Marge Piercy uses imagery to reveal how female secretaries are dehumanized and objectified. The images in the poem are a series of objects found in an office setting. The speaker describes her hips as a desk and her breasts as ink wells and says she will give birth to a Xerox machine. Women were traditionally confined to child rearing and their bodies used for reproduction, but that process of objectification has been replicated in the workplace, where the speaker is confined to a small space and her body is used to reproduce documents. 

The "chains of paper clips" hanging from the speaker's ears and rubber bands that "form [her] hair" represent how her role as secretary first adorns, then penetrates, then merges with her body. The images also suggest the pressure women feel to adorn themselves with jewelry and synthetic hair products to make their appearance pleasing to men, even at the risk of injury or discomfort.

By comparing her head to a "badly organized file" and a "switchboard where crossed lines crackle," the speaker indicates that her thinking has become distorted and she has begun to view herself as an object that is somehow defective. Her ability to speak, express herself, and be heard has also been undermined, as all that comes out of her mouth are "cancelled reams." 

Many of the images are visual, but the use of different shapes and textures appeals to the sense of touch, and the poem appeals to the sense of hearing through the use of onomatopeia to describe the sounds the speaker's mechanized body makes: "buzz," "click," "zing," and "tinkle."

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The Secretary Chant

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