What is Sandra Cisneros' poem "My Wicked Wicked Ways" about in her anthology My Wicked Wicked Ways?

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Tamara K. H. | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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"My Wicked Wicked Ways" is the opening poem in Sandra Cisneros' poetry anthology by the same title: My Wicked Wicked Ways. The title, as well as imagery in the poem, draws a parallel to Errol Flynn's autobiography, ghostwritten by Earl Conrad, also of the same title: My Wicked Wicked Ways. Just like Flynn's autobiography, Cisneros' poem, plus anthology as a whole, depicts her father's immoralities and foreshadows her own in adulthood.

Cisneros' poem is a description of her parents in a photograph. She uses imagery to describe her father as looking like Errol Flynn, with his hat worn tipped "over one eye," his snug fitting suit, and baggy pants. She further describes her mother as "not crying" but looking like she is crying because the sun is too bright.

Flynn's autobiography is considered scandalous for revealing all of his misdeeds with drugs, alcohol, and women. Cisneros shows she is paralleling her own father with Flynn by describing how much they looked alike. Towards the end of the poem, she further parallels her father with Flynn by referring to "[t]he woman, / the one my father knows," which can be interpreted as referring to an extramarital affair her father becomes guilty of as she grows up, much like Flynn was guilty of extramarital affairs. She also ends the poem by paralleling herself with both her father and Flynn, saying, "[My mother] does not know / I will turn out bad." As we progress through the rest of her anthology, we learn that this final line foreshadows all of her wild behavior in adulthood: loose sexual behavior, binge drinking, and extra marital affairs.

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