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Subject: "House Guest" by Elizabeth Bishop

Essential Poetic Elements:

  1. Imagery
  2. Metaphor
  3. Repetition
  4. Tone
  5. Structure
  6. Symbolism
  7. Alliteration
  8. Enjambment
  9. Irony
  10. Personification

Date: The poem was written in the mid-1950s and published posthumously in the 1980s.


"House Guest" by Elizabeth Bishop is a poem that explores the theme of an unwelcome intrusion in one's life. Here are the essential poetic elements present in the poem:


  1. Bishop uses vivid and sensory descriptions to convey the speaker's feelings towards the guest. For example, she writes, "The guest is blue in the face, / being beaten by the air / in the room where they sleep, / or the one over the kitchen." This imagery emphasizes the speaker's frustration with the guest.


  1. The poem uses metaphor to compare the guest's presence to a disease. Bishop writes, "He has been here a week, / and reports no change / in his condition." This metaphor emphasizes the sense of burden that the guest represents.


  1. Bishop repeats certain phrases and images throughout the poem, such as the image of the nails being driven into the wall. This repetition creates a sense of monotony and reinforces the idea that the guest's presence is an unwelcome burden.


  1. The tone of the poem is one of frustration and exhaustion. The speaker is clearly struggling to endure the guest's presence, and this is reflected in the poem's language and imagery.


  1. The poem is structured as a series of four-line stanzas. This structure creates a sense of progression and builds towards a sense of finality and resolution.


  1. The poem uses symbolism to convey the idea that the guest's presence is like a weight on the speaker's life. Bishop writes, "a great weight / Has descended slowly into their midst." This symbolizes the sense of burden and oppression that the guest represents.


  1. Bishop uses alliteration to create a sense of rhythm and flow in the poem. For example, she writes, "The guest goes on / staring at his plate / as if the sea had dried away / behind his own face."


  1. The poem uses enjambment to create a sense of continuity and fluidity between the lines. This helps to create a sense of tension and urgency in the poem.


  1. The poem uses irony to highlight the contrast between the guest's obliviousness to his impact on the speaker's life and the speaker's growing frustration with the situation. For example, Bishop writes, "The guest goes on / staring at his plate / as if the sea had dried away / behind his own face."


  1. The poem uses personification to emphasize the oppressive nature of the guest's presence. Bishop writes, "The air is heavy / with a mixture of things one cannot name." This personification emphasizes the sense of weight and burden that the guest represents.

Overall, "House Guest" is a powerful and poignant poem that effectively conveys the theme of unwanted intrusion through its use of imagery, metaphor, repetition, tone, structure, symbolism, alliteration, enjambment, irony, and personification.

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