What is the theme of "Identity" by Julio Noboa Polanco?

Quick answer:

The overriding theme of “Identity” by Julio Noboa Polanco is the importance of individuality. The speaker is all too aware that he's different from other people, but he's unapologetic about it. He is unique, an individual, and that's just the way he likes it.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The poem “Identity” by Julio Noboa Polanco is an unrepentant celebration of individuality. Asserting himself against other people, whom he contemptuously likens to well-fed, well-watered flowers, he's proud to stand apart from them, a “tall, ugly weed / clinging on cliffs,” wavering in the wind over “high, jagged rocks”.

From the sentiments expressed and the metaphors drawn from nature he uses to express them, it would seem that the speaker is a bit of a free spirit—someone who prefers to live his own life and to do his own thing instead of just following the crowd, as most people do. Even if it means that he ends up being unseen and “shunned by everyone,” he's prepared to live life on his own terms and no one else's.

One gets the impression that the speaker is subject to some pretty unpleasant treatment from others. When he says, for instance, that he'd “rather smell of musty, green stench / than of sweet, fragrant lilac,” it would seem that he's railing against rejection, either from a specific individual or from society as a whole. But instead of moping about it or feeling sorry for himself, he's decided to hit back by asserting his uniqueness and individuality against a cruel, uncomprehending world.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The key theme of this poem by Julio Noboa Polanco is individuality and the freedom that comes with retaining one's own personal identity. Polanco uses an extended metaphor to imagine himself as a weed, which, unlike the "flowers," may be ugly but will never find itself "harnessed" to a pot in which it must remain contained.

The weed, Polanco goes on to say, is "unseen" and may be "shunned," but at least is able to feel exposed to the sky and the breezes. The weed has a soul and is able to spread its "seed" into places the flowers could never reach.

Flowers—those who allow themselves to be circumscribed by the rules of a constraining society—may be pleasant smelling, beautiful, and appreciated, but they grow in "clusters." There is nothing to distinguish them from one another.

By contrast, to be a weed may mean being viewed as "ugly" and foul smelling, but at least it means that one is an individual and retains individual freedoms.

It can feel dangerous at times to defy convention and break outside of the "pots" within which the other people live. There is a certain "madness" in being a rebel. However, although a weed will not be praised as flowers are, it also will not be "plucked," either.

Polanco describes humans as "greedy," suggesting that they praise these well-behaved flowers in part only because they ultimately want to be able to harvest them. People are taught to be and behave in a certain way so that they can be commodified. Weeds are considered ugly because they cannot be purposed in this manner; but at the same time, the weed itself knows that it is free.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The theme of Julio Noboa Polanco's extended metaphor poem "Identity" is freedom through individuality. Throughout the poem, Noboa Polanco contrasts individuality and conformity by juxtaposing two kinds of plants: weeds and flowers. These two images serve as metaphors for two kinds of lives. 

The potted flowers represent conformity within a group of people. The potted plants are more secure: they are "always watered, fed, guarded, admired." However, being a beautiful potted plant comes at the cost of being "harnessed to a pot of dirt." In this way Noboa Polanco draws the conclusion that though it may be easier to conform to what a group of people deems beautiful, it comes with costly restrictions.

The ugly weed represents individuality. The ugly weed clings "on cliffs, like an eagle / wind-wavering above high, jagged rocks." Though not as beautiful, the weed is free, and unlike the multitude of potted flowers, there is only one ugly weed. Noboa Polanco claims that even though it may be more difficult and less classically beautiful to have a unique identity, it is inherently better.

Noboa Polanco concludes the poem, 

If I could stand alone, strong and free, 
I'd rather be a tall, ugly weed.
While using this extended metaphor format, Noboa Polanco describes the uniform flowers as boring and helpless to the forces around them, while the weed is strong and free. In this way, the author enforces his theme that people who live without identity live a lesser life, and those who live on their own terms live the better life. 
Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

"Identity" by Julio Noboa Polanco is a poem about a singular identity awash in a constrained group culture. The poem starts by comparing unnamed individuals to flowers.

Let them be as flowers, always watered, fed, guarded, admired, but harnessed to a pot of dirt.

These flowers have what they want. They have no fear of going without. The sun will not stop shining on them, and they will always have admirers. However, they will never be free. They must stay where they are, at the mercy of those who tend to them. These handlers give, but they may also take, plucking the flowers from their happy home. The narrator does not want to be a flower. He would rather be free. This, he feels, would make him feel the "madness of the world." He's willing to make some sacrifices for that. He's willing to be unseen and shunned. The poem ends with these lines.

If I could stand alone, strong and free, I'd rather be a tall, ugly weed.

The narrator is struggling with his identity through the course of the poem. The things he wants are different from what others want, and he goes through the ramifications in this poem, but it's a trade he's willing to make. Being strong and free is more important than being beautiful but weak and trapped.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial