Metaphor, Tone and Antithesis in "Legal Alien"

Categories: Metaphor

"Legal Alien," a collection from "Chants," is a short free versed poem written by Pat Mora. The poem explores the lives of Mexican-Americans and the cultural tension they have to face. The poet discusses a bi-cultural person whose parents are from Mexico but the person was born and raised in America and is an American citizen by law. Although he can speak fluent English and Spanish, he still has a hard time being accepted by both or one race. Mora's use of poetic techniques such as metaphor, tone and antithesis emphasizes her concerns in regards to the issue.

Mora uses metaphor to highlight how a bi-cultural individual feels like not being acknowledged by both races.

Get quality help now
Sweet V
Sweet V
checked Verified writer

Proficient in: Alien

star star star star 4.9 (984)

“ Ok, let me say I’m extremely satisfy with the result while it was a last minute thing. I really enjoy the effort put in. ”

avatar avatar avatar
+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

"a handy token" (line 16) informs the readers that a bi-cultural individual is like a handy instrument that can easily slide from back to forth, from English to Spanish (vice-versa). The person can also adapt very quickly, quicker than those who has only one culture. "between the fringes of both worlds" (line 18) notify the readers that although the speaker's race is Mexican and his nationality is American the speaker isn't fully accepted by both races. Mexicans view the speaker as an alien (line 10) while American view him as exotic, inferior and definitely different (lines 9-10). In this situation, the speaker feels lost in both races thus having an identity crisis.

Using tone shapes the ideas of the poem and expresses the poet's aggravation towards cultural tension. "able to slip from, "How's life?" to "_Me'stanvolviendo loca"_

(lines 2-3) this line informs the readers that while the speaker can speak both languages fluently she isn't accepted by both races entirely and the speaker is frustrated, this is evident when she said "_Me'stanvolviendo loca"_(line 3) this means " they are driving me crazy" in English.

Get to Know The Price Estimate For Your Paper
Number of pages
Email Invalid email

By clicking “Check Writers’ Offers”, you agree to our terms of service and privacy policy. We’ll occasionally send you promo and account related email

"You must agree to out terms of services and privacy policy"
Write my paper

You won’t be charged yet!

"By smiling by masking the discomfort of being pre-judged Bi-laterally" (lines 19-22) the speaker is unease and sad because she is not accepted by both races. The speaker smiles to conceal his discomfort of being pre-judged immediately without knowing him first. Mora capitalizes "Bi-laterally" (line 22) and adds a hyphen to draw attention to the readers that the speaker is being judged by both of his heritage.

Mora uses antithesis to make the readers more mindful of the opposition. Antitheses is almost visible in every line of the poem where the speaker is describing two different races, Mexican and American, side-by-side with each other but are complete opposites. Examples are "How's life? To _Me'stanvolviendo loca"_ (lines 2-3), "Drafting memos in smooth English, able to order in fluent Spanish at a Mexican restaurant" (lines 5-7), "Viewed by Anglos as perhaps exotic, perhaps inferior, definitely different, viewed by Mexicans as alien" (lines 9-11), "An American to Mexicans/ A Mexican to Americans" (lines 14- 15). These lines of antithesis draw attention to the cultural tension between Mexican and American in an individual's knowledge.

Pat Mora uses poetic techniques such as metaphor, tone and antithesis to show discomfort and frustration of fitting in and being accepted by both races. The readers is predicted to fathom that bi-cultural individuals don't have it so easy fitting in and being accepted by both races even though they can speak both languages, both of their race still don't accept them utterly. That leaves them having an identity crisis thus being called a "legal alien", a person who belongs however is not entirely acknowledged by the community.

Mexican American and Poem Legal Alien

Ora is in the open poem form, it has no stanzas. It does have a few words that rhyme which are “English” (5) and “Spanish” (6) and also with “Mexicans” (14) and then with “Americans” (15). The poem also has rhythm, it is a low steady beat. It is a straightforward poem about how life is for a person with the same race/ethnicity as others and at the same time, different from others.

The poem “Legal Alien” is about a woman of Mexican parents, who is born and raised in America. An American citizen established by law, but at the same time this person feels like an illegal alien because of how some people treat her. She is fluent in both, English and in Spanish. Feels American because she is, but at the same time she doesn’t. She is looked at by Americans (Anglos) as inferior, and looked at by Mexicans like she doesn’t belong.

They make her feel like she is not one of them, like she doesn’t fit anywhere. “An American to Mexicans a Mexican to Americans a handy token sliding back and forth between the fringes of both worlds” (14-18).Wha Rosa PantojaPeriod 110/9/12Ms. HamptonAmerican literatureLegal Alien EssayThe beliefs of the contemporary time period is that the voices of all cultures, ethnicgroups, gender, and nationalities should be heard and poetry is universal and speaks to allpeople regardless of their background. In the poem Legal Alien by Pat Mora, the literary devicesthat Pat Mora uses are metaphor and personification.

These literary devices help reveal the author’s message to the audience which are the Mexican-Americans. The metaphor show thatbeing Mexican-American has its advantages and the personification shows the disadvantages of how people view Mexican-American.Pat Mora uses metaphor to reveal the message that being Mexican-Americans has anadvantage to the audience.

In line 16 “a handy token sliding back and forth betwee. n the fringes of both worlds…” this is a metaphor because she is comparing herself to a token. She comparesherself to a token because tokens usually have two sides to it, and she is implying that she alsohas two sides because she is Mexican and American. P at Mora uses “handy token” because she says that it is an advantage because she can go between the borders of being Mexican andbeing American.

Pat uses the word “fringes” instead of using the word border because the fringe is bringing both sides of the world together and a border separates the two worlds of Americans and Mexicans, and by her being Mexican- American she is bringing both of thoseworlds togethe.

Updated: Nov 01, 2022
Cite this page

Metaphor, Tone and Antithesis in "Legal Alien". (2016, Aug 09). Retrieved from

Metaphor, Tone and Antithesis in "Legal Alien" essay
Live chat  with support 24/7

👋 Hi! I’m your smart assistant Amy!

Don’t know where to start? Type your requirements and I’ll connect you to an academic expert within 3 minutes.

get help with your assignment