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Dorothy Livesay’s poem “Experience” Essay

Dorothy Livesay’s poem “Experience” teaches that if one learns solely from outside sources, then one will never know what it is to feel independence and self-growth. By examining the authors personal experiences, the imagery, and the symbolism used the above statement will be proven true.

Dorothy’s personal life had a large influence on her opinion about independence and self-growth. Her lengthy career spanning over 5 decades, her involvement with politics and her general travelling not only across Canada but Paris and the soviet union kept her constantly experiencing new environments. This greatly affected her career as a poet, she let herself be influenced by all cultures and her surroundings. She began travelling independently at a young age and co inherently matured quickly, proving the idea that personal experience and learning first hand is essential in fully understanding all aspects of life.

Livesay’s comparison of having situations and experiences forced upon you to the idea of eating bitter and stale bread leaving her feeling tired and hollow shows a direct relation to the idea of maturing and growing as a person. “So I went on my own road, tasting all fruits, all breads.” As she grows up she has everyone around her assuming they know what’s best and force her to follow their ideas without any say. This hurts her ability to be independent and leaves her completely reliant on others and lacking personality and imagination. Realising this as she continues to grow older she decides to travel and experience new ideas and ways of living to learn for herself what’s best for her personally. Although it is not guaranteed that everything you come across will have positive effects on your life, eventually what you’re looking for will come across and you will grow as an individual.

In the poem, Livesay uses bread as a symbol for the situations and experiences forced upon you by others, and fruits as the adventures you make and learn from independently. The bread is described as being bitter and stale, leaving her heart feeling empty and unsatisfied…as if something was missing. Once the decision was made to travel and experience everything for herself – both breads and fruits – she felt like that part of her that was missing had been filled and completed. One could infer that the part of her that was missing was her independence and maturity, which she developed as she continued to travel and work. “Tasting all fruits, all breads: And if some were bitter, others were sweet. So I learned, how the heart is fed.”

Dorothy Livesay’s personal life following the idea of independence and growth through travelling alone and learning first hand, the imagery developed in the descriptions of how the bread and fruits taste, and the use of symbolism turning the idea of bread into undesirable events and fruits being the idea of self-growth and maturity show that the core message in Dorothy Livesay’s poem “Experience” is one cannot grow and mature as a person if they learn solely from outside sources.


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