In "Masque," why does the poet begin in the first person then change into the second person?Masque I’m standing back, now, looking back at last on all those crowded days and nights relentlessly...

In "Masque," why does the poet begin in the first person then change into the second person?

Masque

I’m standing back, now,

looking back

at last

on all those crowded

days and nights

relentlessly erupting

on face and steet

 

each face, voice, mannerism

meticulously chosen and applied

for fear

that yours would be the one,

the one that slipped,

or didn’t fit,

 

the one the rest saw

over their shoulders

as they shrank away from you.

 

Asked on by wanderista

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

Strictly speaking, this poem is written in the first person alone, as the first line indicates:

I'm standing back, now...

If this poem did contain parts that were written in the second person, we would see that the poem contains lines that just focus on the action of the "you" and nothing else. However, you are right in indicating that there is a shift in this poem as the speaker begins to talk about herself (if it is a she), and then shifts to consider the person that she is addressing this poem to, the "you" of the poem. This places the speaker in relationship with this "you" of the poem and makes us think very carefully about what kind of relationship she has with this "you," who we might infer to be a man. What is disturbing and unsettling about this poem is that, from the evidence we are given, the speaker seems to present this "you" in ways that show her fear of him and indicate that he is a man that others fear and "shrink" back from. In particular, the second stanza indicates that others around him try to change their appearance and mannerisms out of fear of him.

This move therefore from the "I" at the beginning of the poem to the "you" at the end of the poem helps create an unsettling feel as we are left to wonder precisely what is so scary about the person this poem is addressed to.

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