What is an analysis of the poem "Island"?

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"Island" by Nissim Ezekiel is a twenty-five-line poem divided into five stanzas of five lines each. Ezekiel, who wrote in the second half of the twentieth century, is considered the father of Indian English poetry. The poem is both a tribute to and lament of a populous urban environment.

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"Island" by Nissim Ezekiel is a twenty-five-line poem divided into five stanzas of five lines each. Ezekiel, who wrote in the second half of the twentieth century, is considered the father of Indian English poetry. The poem is both a tribute to and lament of a populous urban environment.

Taken autobiographically, the poem refers to living in Mumbai, India, where Ezekiel was born. However, it could apply to any major population center. Although entitled "island," it doesn't describe what most readers would think of as an island setting, such as a tropical resort island. Instead, it describes the harsh realities of living in a big city. Mumbai, in fact, is located on a peninsula, not an island. The "island" of the title refers to the isolation one feels when trying to make a living in a crowded city.

The poem begins with a negative opinion of this "island": It is "unsuitable for song as well as sense." This island isn't pretty or soothing to the senses. Instead of lush, tropical flowers, it sprouts "slums and skyscrapers." It harbors "dragons claiming to be human"—that is, intimidating people. It is a place of loneliness ("mostly I keep my own counsel") and confusion ("I hear distorted echoes of my own ambiguous voice").

Despite his criticisms of the location, the poet mentions some bright spots. The city offers "bright and tempting breezes." This could refer to the opportunities for wealth, entertainment, and social interaction that city living affords. After noting that he cannot leave the city and that he was born there, the poet states in the last stanza that "a host of miracles hurries me to daily business." A city is a marvel in many ways, and one finds many things to occupy one's time there. The speaker seems resigned to the city, despite its drawbacks. He functions there "as a good native should, taking calm and clamor in my stride."

In "Island," Ezekiel presents the advantages and disadvantages of an urban lifestyle in a way that many city dwellers can relate to.

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