What does the simile "docile as paper" suggest about the city in the poem "The Emigrée" by Carol Rumens?

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The simile, 'docile as paper' is part of the extended imagery which the poet uses to refer to the city throughout the poem. The image one has of the city from whence the speaker came is that it has lodged itself in her memory as pure and untainted. She...

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The simile, 'docile as paper' is part of the extended imagery which the poet uses to refer to the city throughout the poem. The image one has of the city from whence the speaker came is that it has lodged itself in her memory as pure and untainted. She furthermore associates the city with sunlight which speaks of a happy place, filled with warmth and life.

It is evident that the speaker has an idealised concept of her city of origin. Even though she is constantly bombarded with negative images and cynical stories about her homeland, she refuses to relinquish the positive image she has of it. 

In this sense then, the city poses no threat to her. As long as the memory thereof is pleasant, it cannot do any harm. It is in this context that the poet uses the simile, 'docile as paper.' Docile means obedient. The fact that the city comes to her in 'its own white plane' and 'lies down in front of me' metaphorically suggest that all the ideas that she has of her city find expression on a sheet of paper. The paper is docile since it submits to her will. She can write whatever she wishes about her city on the white sheet (plane) and it will yield to her. It will not, and cannot resist since it is in her control.

Since the images that she has of her city are only positive ones, the speaker will defend it and act as its protector. She will cast a shadow which is caused by the brightness of the city behind her, but the city she knows will never be dark since it exists in her mind and she controls what she thinks. In this sense, then, she will never harbour any negative images of a place which she wants to remember in positive terms.

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