Essay, Pages 5 (1043 words)
“(love song, with two goldfish)” by Grace Chua is a contemporary poem written in 2003. The poem is about a pair of goldfish living together in a fishbowl and experiencing a romantic relationship. The two goldfish represent a young couple (young teenagers) growing up in an environment which deprives them of their desires and does not fulfil them; their common feelings of isolation draw them toward each other, then apart as they mature and slowly realize that they do not truly care for each other but came together mainly because of circumstance.
The poem uses a lot of humorous puns which express that love can be ruined by some circumstances and a desire for a better life-experience.
The title explains much about the poem; love will be a theme, as well as the significance of the two goldfish which will likely be a metaphor. The reader must also notice that almost the entire poem is surrounded in parentheses, including the title. The round shape of the parentheses resembles that of a fishbowl.
Furthermore, the last line of the poem is “(bowl)” which is indicative of their purpose; the parentheses represent a fishbowl. A fishbowl is a barrier of sorts which does not allow the fish to explore outside its walls. In this way the goldfish are isolated from the rest of the world. This is a problem for the fish as they do not enjoy their sense of confinement. The male, described as a “drifter,” (line 1) courts the female and soon after they dream of exploring the ocean, a much vaster body of water.
Clearly they cannot stand living in such a small world, with no power over such a lonely existence.
There is no particular rhyme scheme in this poem which leads the reader for focus more on the humour of this poem. The humour captures the audience’s attention and emotions through the references to fish, which come in the form of puns. Not one of these puns is insignificant however; each has its own detail to add to the larger idea of the poem. The author also cleverly uses all of these jokes to allow the reader to notice the dichotomy of the references: each joke could be interpreted as both a pun because they are fish and a hint at their human characteristics. The first line of the poem “He’s a drifter” is and example of dichotomy. By nature he ventures and explores and cannot stay in the same place for long. By contrast, he lives in a fishbowl, in a compact space, and so cannot do this. This leaves him with an existentialist outlook on life.
The fish are clearly anthropomorphous as they think and act as humans would, such as sharing secrets and counting the waves. The goldfish are comparable to teenagers through the depiction of their intense and unstable relationship; young couples are prone to fighting more and are more passionate. The fishbowl is representative of the limitations on the teenagers placed by society, restricting their lives and causing them to conform to social norms.
The story of the teenagers is a tragic tale of love sprung from despair; the two fish come together only because of circumstance. If they had not been the only ones stuck in the same bowl or had they not both felt the same feelings of isolation and loneliness they would not have associated with each other. At first their story seems happy and the fish appear perfectly innocent and also trying to pursue the young woman as he is “always floating around her” (lines 1-2). As the poem progresses they grow ever-closer and begin to understand each other. The male, who is more naive than the female, believes their love to be true and is more dedicated to their relationship. Because of this he imagines them sharing their deepest secrets in submarine silence. This powerful romantic emotion is common to teenagers, who have not yet learned what the limitations of life are. The female, who is quicker to mature emotionally, realizes first that their relationship is not based on feelings for each other and is quick to end it, knowing that they cannot escape their reality through each other.
This is supported by the tone of the poem. In the beginning the tone is slow and the relationship between the fish is also slow. As they become closer in stanzas 2 to 3 the tone speeds up, just as does their relationship. When it draws to a close and the girl leaves the boy the tone returns to its original pace to show how their lives return to being similar to what they were before. The female and male both come to understand themselves and their world better from their experience, which is the only change from the beginning.
The author cleverly leaves hints for the reader instead of directly communicating what transpires between the two fish. Subtlety is used in all references to human intelligence. For example the female “wanted (and he could not give) a life beyond the (bowl)” (lines 24-28) , which explains the girl’s entire thought process in only a few lines. She has realized that life beyond the limitations of the bowl is not possible. She has accepted that she has no control over her fate. It is then that she leaves the boy; she can no longer interact with his naive thoughts and overly-optimistic hopes. Likewise, she understands that she cannot hope to meet his expectations and she cannot bear to let him down as it is shown in the last stanza. The reader notices that the separation is metaphorical as well as grammatical. “(the reason, she said/she wanted) / (and he could not give)” (lines 24-28) shows that “He” and “she” are no longer in the same incidental world.
In conclusion, the goldfish are representations of young teenage humans. Their romance is communicated through cleverly worded jokes and through the structure of the stanzas. The use of parentheses around almost the entire poem is designed to outline the confinement and feelings of isolation, loneliness and depression. The goldfish grow together because of their young naivete and then apart when the girl’s thoughts become more sober and she concludes that they must part ways.