What literary devices were used in the poem "Money" by Dana Gioia?

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carol-davis | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Dana Gioia ‘s poem “Money” grabs hold of the subject that is constantly on everyone’s mind, even those people who have a lot of it. Gioia’s approach is clever and humorous.  His language involves almost every cliché and phrase that has ever been said or written about money.

Each verse takes a different perspective of the subject.  If a person has had to struggle with finances, the poem will at least supply a bit of mirth on the topic.

Stanza 1-This stanza provides many words used as slang synonyms for  the word money.  The writer has placed certain words within the lines to rhyme.  ‘the long cash, stash…”

Stanza 2- In this stanza, the poet uses participles to express using money to pay for something:

“Watch it burn holes through pockets!”  This is certainly a problem for some people; if they have it, they need to spend it

Stanza 3-This stanza has money symbolizing  people who have a lot of it.  The grammatical device used here are gerund phrases: “To have it to burn!”  Then he adds more synonyms for money which symbolize  phrases which come from  slot machines with big payouts.

Stanza 4- In this verse, he uses action verbs with direct objects to represent people that save their money and sometimes money saves the people. These short clauses are also metaphors comparing money to several things:

  • putting money in the hand of someone who may not be the best sort of person
  • money is compared to items that a bird would use to make his nest secure.
  • Money is placed in the role of a life jacket keeping someone from sinking financially
  • money is like putting together a train track hoping that one has enough tracks to make a circle and come back together…hoping to have enough money to pay bills, eat, work, and play.

Stanza 5- If a person has money, using it well will make a lot more money.

Money breeds money.
Gathering interest, compounding daily.
Always in circulation.

Then, the poet uses banking terms to suggest that it probably is a good idea to save money by leaving it in the savings account to accrue interest.

Stanza 6- The poet provides some motherly advice: Keep money out of the mouth…who knows where it has been. But then, in a bit of humor, when a person makes a bet, he is advised to put up his money to complete the bet. His final bit of wisdom does hold true: Money talks.  Money can buy a person anything he can afford…but beware…it is the root of all evil! (That is my advice!)

The poet believes that money can be saved , shared , wasted, abused , and  used . Getting  money is seemingly the prime objective of mankind . Earning it is the ultimate reason why anyone gets a job and works . Everyone goes to any length  just to have  money .

The imagery that he combines makes the reader imagine he is in Fort Knox wallowing in the green stuff. 

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