Student Question

What makes the title of the poem "To the doctor who treated the raped baby and who felt such despair" unusual, and is it effective? What does the speaker mean by speaking "on behalf of us all" in the first line?

Expert Answers

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When I first read the title of the poem, three things came to mind.  First of all, it’s long!  Most of the time titles of poems are short, to the point, and often symbolic in some way. Every word counts in a poem, and many poets try to make sure they use the “best,” most descriptive words when they write.  This title is to the point but very long in length.  For that reason, it hooks the reader and causes curiosity on the part of the reader to continue reading.

The second thing the title of the poem does is shock the reader with its brutal content.  The words, “raped baby,” describe a horrific image and a monstrous crime.  Again, it causes the reader’s interest to peak and continue reading despite the grotesque subject.

Starting the title with, “To the doctor . . .” sounds like the poet is writing an open letter or personal note to the doctor. As the poem continues, we do see that the poet is thanking the doctor for his service to the baby. The poet recognizes the doctor’s despair over what has happened to the baby and attempts to relieve it by showing the kinder side of parenthood in the opposing lines to the medical care the baby is receiving.  This letter-like title becomes a message “from all of us.”

“All of us” are the kind, loving parents and people who abhor the crime committed to the baby and are thankful for the doctor’s service.  They are the shepherd singing a lullaby to his baby, the mother breastfeeding her baby, the uncle who wakes to feed a baby, and the grandpa walking a colicky baby. These people suggest to the doctor that despite the rape of the baby and his despair, there are others who are loving and caring and would never hurt a baby.  “All of us” also include the reader who has been impacted by the words and subject matter of the poem. 

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