The Emigree Analysis

What is an analysis of the poem "The Emigree" by Carol Rumens?

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Carol Rumens’ work of poetry entitled “The Emigree” is about a child being forced to leave her home and flee to another land. It is a fantastic work, and can teach us much about the refugee situation exploding as a result of wars in the Middle East.

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Carol Rumens’ work of poetry entitled “The Emigree” is about a child being forced to leave her home and flee to another land. It is a fantastic work, and can teach us much about the refugee situation exploding as a result of wars in the Middle East.

The child is viewing her home city through rose-tinted glasses, meaning that she only remembers the best aspects of living there. She writes, “my memory of it is sunlight-clear,” which I believe to be significant because sunlight brings forward the imagery of warmth and happiness (Rumens). Rumens follows this up soon after with the following lines: “The worst news I receive of it cannot break / my original view, the bright, filled paperweight” (Rumens). This means no matter what news she hears of how awful things are in her original city, she has a paperweight holding the memories firmly in place, again with the imagery of brightness. In the following lines, we learn the reason she was likely forced to leave: “It may be at war, it may be sick with tyrants, / but I am branded by an impression of sunlight” (Rumens). Apparently she is leaving a war-torn country ruled by tyrants, but the “sunlight” in her mind cannot be erased. Her memory, therefore, is colored by nostalgia. It is in the same manner that one might think of an old girlfriend or boyfriend, remembering the good times and disregarding the bad.

Of her vocabulary, or language, she notes, “It may by now be a lie, banned by the state / but I can’t get it off my tongue. It tastes of sunlight” (Rumens). The lie banned by the state could refer to anything positive she has to say about her homeland. Again, we have the sunlight coming into play, in the shape of pleasant memories. It is notable that sunlight is used as a taste, because it can be interpreted to mean anything which tastes pleasant. The poet could have used some type of candy, but used sunlight because it works on different levels, and because it is a recurring theme throughout the work.

She also personifies her city, noting “I comb its hair and love its shining eyes” (Rumens). This can mean that she maintains her memories by reliving them within her mind, always ensuring the beauty does not fade.  The closing five lines are a bit trickier to analyze:

My city takes me dancing through the city

of walls. They accuse me of absence, they circle me.

They accuse me of being dark in their free city.

My city hides behind me. They mutter death,

and my shadow falls as evidence of sunlight. (Rumens).

Again, she personifies her city, and it takes her dancing through the city of walls. The walls she refers to could be the walls of a refugee camp. The walls surround her, and accuse her of negativity, believing she should happy in this “free” place where she feels uncomfortable. Her city does not protect her from this new city of walls; rather, she protects her original city from the new one. It hides behind her, within her mind, and she defends the memory from those who would taint it. Her shadow falling as evidence of sunlight could be proof to the other city that she maintains her love for her homeland, and is not willingly going to adopt the new customs, language, and overall culture of her new home.

The poem is a great example of childhood idealization.

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