The Youngest Daughter

by Cathy Song

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What is the critical analysis of the poem "The Youngest Daughter" by Cathy Song?

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When asked to critically analyze a poem, you are being asked to deeply examine and break down the elements of the poem to interpret the author’s meaning and message. After reading the poem, you would first want to look at the title. Why would the author call the poem “The Youngest Daughter”? You will want to identify the mood and tone of the poem, and then consider the major themes. In “The Youngest Daughter” you will definitely want to consider the mother-daughter relationship as a major theme. The poem also addresses aging, demonstrated by the beginning line: “The sky has been dark for many years.” In your analysis, you will also want to address some of the elements used by the author such as imagery, figurative language, personification, symbolism and irony. For example, the author uses figurative language to compare her mother’s breasts to “two walruses.” Symbolism is used at the end of the poem when “a thousand cranes curtain the window.” You will want to discuss these various elements in the poem and how they all help the author communicate her message.

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It is a beautiful poem about a mother-daughter relationship, where the mother is elderly and the daughter is a grown woman, taking care of her.

At the beginning of the poem, the narrator realises she is getting older. She has migrains. She lives with her mother.

There are quite a few lines describing her bathing her mother. Those lines reveal very much about her mother's history and her current illness, she had 6 children but now she is very old and frail. Her mother jokes about her large breasts. Her mother has diabetes.

The daughter feels weary from having spent so many years taking care of her mother.

In the end her mother performs her daily ritual of preparing tea and rice with gingered fish and pickled turnips. The narrator says that her mother knows she(narrator) can't be trusted. This means that she will not stay there with her mother forever.

The daughter admits that she is already planning to escape.

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