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The speaker in this brilliant poem is clearly a very shy young woman who has just returned from her first somester at college to her home. As she sits with her grandmother, engaging in the homely task of snapping beans together, her grandmother asks her the question of how college is going. This question conjures up a number of possible responses, and these various responses reveal the confusion and homesickness of the speaker. Note, for example, the following quote from the poem:
I wanted to tell her how my stomach burned
acidic holes at the thought of speaking in class,
speaking in an accent, speaking out of turn,
how I was tearing, splitting myself apart
with the slow-simmering guilt of being happy
despite it all.
Clearly, the speaker, from the South, feels incredibly out of place, and only has to open her mouth to be reminded of her origins and how she is different from all of her fellow students. This is causing massive stress in terms of her identity, but even bigger stress and confusion is caused by the fact that in spite of her feelings of being different, she is actually enjoying college. The major confusion and the internal conflict of the speaker are thus explored through the variety of responses that run through the speaker's head before she answers her grandmother.
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