There are many literary terms that constitute a poem, such as symbolism, rhyme, rhythm, tone and so on. The most important literary term that makes up a poem is the speaker. The speaker sets the tone of the poem and has the ability to maintain the attention of readers. The most important role of the speaker is to be “real”, in the sense that the reader feels that they are listening to someone say something as opposed to reading words off of a paper. The speaker also allows the poet to make his or her point in a clearer manner. “Suicide Note” by Janice Mirikitani is an example of the importance of a speaker in poetry.
The speaker of this poem is an Asian student that has reached her breaking point because of the pressure that she has felt from her parents and she has committed suicide. The speaker of this poem is especially important and a great example of the importance of the speaker in poetry. The speaker of “Suicide Note” is a young woman that has been driven to commit suicide. The tone of the poem is automatically set by the title, but when reading the poem and listening to the hopelessness that the speaker expresses a much more somber tone is revealed. The young woman begins by saying, “I apologize for disappointing you.
// I’ve worked very hard,// not good enough//harder, perhaps to please you. //” (Mirikitani). This is where the speaker really begins to start talking and this quote in particular shows how hopeless she feels and that she does not feel she worked hard enough for her parent’s approval. This highlights the somber and hopeless tone of the poem. In an article written by John B. Krayder, “Discovering the Inclusive Art of Poetry”, he explains, “…they quickly learned that words such as the, and, and of are probably not well-suited for strong beats or sustained tones” (Krayder).
Looking at the words spoken by the speaker of poem and comparing them with what Krayder says regarding tone shows the impact that the speaker has on the tone of the poem. The speaker does not use “the, and, of” in that quote, evidence of strong emotion. Another point that Krayder makes in his article is that poetry is meant to be read aloud, and when this poem is read allowed the continuous use of “o” vowel sound is evidence of the Mirikitani using the sound in the speaker’s words to give a somber tone. The speaker of this poem is a student in despair that feels that she has failed her parents and is ashamed of that.
Her solution is suicide, a tragic decision, and through her words the tone of the poem is affected and in turn the reader can witness her despair. A poem is an expression of emotion. “Suicide Note” is an emotion filled poem and it is especially captured through the speaker. The interpretation of this emotion is up to the reader of the poem, making it important for the speaker to be able to connect with the reader. In this case, the poem is written in a way that it seem that the reader is actually reading the letter that the young student wrote to her parents.
She is very descriptive about how unworthy and ashamed she feels. She feels that if she would have at least been a male she could have pleased her parents much more. Feeling that she was just not good enough she says, “I apologize” (Mirikitani). This apology is an outrage because she cannot control something like her gender, she worked so hard to please her parents and now she is committing suicide. The way that she speaks makes readers sympathize with her and feel as if she could be a friend or even family member of the reader that feels so desperate and lonely.
Words like these allow the poet to make a connection between the speaker of the poem and the reader. Walker Gibson explains in his article titled, “Authors, Speakers, Readers, and Mock Readers “, “It is this speaker who is “real” in the sense most useful to the study of literature, for the speaker is made of language alone, and his entire self lies on the page before us in evidence” (Gibson 1). This quote shows the importance that the speaker has in the perception of the poem by the audience. The poet communicates with readers through the speaker meaning that the reader can really see the emotions of the poet.
It is important for reader and speaker to make a connection so that the reader can understand the message that the poet is trying to portray. In “Suicide Note” the reader can see how worthless and inferior the speaker feels making the reader sympathize and connect with her. This connection allows the poet to show her emotion and make her point. In poetry the speaker allows the poet to make her point through the poem. In this case, Mirikitani is trying to portray how tough and how much pressure is involved in the Asian culture. “Suicide Note” really shows the extreme measures that young people are driven to when pushed so hard.
The poem shows the stereotypical Asian family where the child does not feel good enough for her parents and her parents hold her to a high standard. Through this poem Mirikitani really shows her culture. The speaker involves so much of nature in her words and speaks about not being smart enough and apologizing for being a girl instead of an honorable man. In Japanese culture nature is very important explaining why she uses so many words involving nature before jumping to her death. This poem also shows the miscommunication between generations.
Taise Yamamoto explains in her book, Japanese American Women’s Fiction, how Japanese writers include their culture in their writing and also show the negative parts of their culture, one being how drastic generational difference are and the problems that accompany them. Yamamoto says, “The filial/generational model often assumes that cultural transmissions is unidirectional, beginning from an originary source and following down the generational line” (Yamamoto 143). This quote shows how generations do not understand each other in the Japanese culture. This could explain the issue of the speaker in “Suicide Note”.
The parents may have just wanted the best for her daughter and to be a successful doctor but they did not communicate that well and she did not understand them. Mirikitani demonstrates the harsh side of her culture and is creating awareness to the reader and to her listeners. The speaker of this poem contributes to the message that Mirikitani is trying to send. The speaker is a very important part of poetry and the importance can be seen through the speaker of “Suicide Note” by Janice Mirikitani. The speaker, a young Asian American, is committing suicide because she feels that she is just not good enough for her parents.
The somber words of the speaker contribute to setting the sad and hopeless tone of the poem. The speaker serves as a “real” person for the reader and listeners to be able to connect with the poet and receive the message as opposed to just reading words off of a paper. Finally, through the speaker the poet is able to effectively demonstrate the message of the poem, the message of this poem is that the generational gap can have tragic consequences. Speakers are not only the subject of the poem but also serve as an important way of communication between poet and reader. Works Cited Gibson, Walker.
“Authors, Speakers, Readers, and Mock Readers. ” JSTOR. National Council of Teachers of English, Feb. 1950. Web. 08 Apr. 2013. Kryder, John B. “Discovering the Inclusive Art of Poetry. ” JSTOR. National Council of Teachers of English, Sept. 2006. Web. 08 Apr. 2013. Mandel, Stephen R. “Suicide Note. ” Lit. By Laurie G. Kirszner. Belmont, MA: Wadsworth/Cengage Learning, 2012. 367+. Print. Yamamoto, Traise. “Mothers, Daughters, and the Trope of Maternal Absence in Japanese American Women’s Fiction. ” Masking Selves, Making Subjects: Japanese American Women, Identity, and the Body. Berkeley: University of California, 1999. 141-43. Print