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An Short Explication of Dorianne Laux’s “The Life of Trees”


Dorianne Laux expresses a parallel between the lives of us humans and that of trees. In her free-verse poem she contrasts the unhindered simple lives of a tree (the subject) with the hectic, complicated and labor intensive lives of humans. The theme can then be seen as unfettered existence free from all obligations as she expresses interest in living a carefree life such as a tree lives even if only in her dreams. She ultimately longs for peace and tranquility; quietude. The title signifies that the poem is about the arboreal lives of trees but through reading and the techniques chosen we see that the “life” of trees really symbolizes a carefree lifestyle- (thesis statement)

            With the use of personification- referring to the trees as “beings from a muted world”, she comments on how carefree they are and do not bother with making choices, are not concerned for monetary gain, etc. We see simile when she says “clouds shredding like ancient lace above their crowns” and we see the patchwork created from the clouds and sky that gives an image of lace. There is even an instance of assonance- “between my teeth, cut those suckers down” seen by the vowels “e”, “u” and “o” throughout. Through the use of metaphor she refers to the trees which are “born” from seeds i.e. their father, thus when they mature and drop their own seeds they then become fathers themselves. She says, “…that whipped bully who rises up and becomes his dead father”.

            In this 1st person narrative style she chooses words such as “spangled dark” meaning the starry night; “muted world” meaning they are no incumbencies the trees have to deal with like our duties and tasks we face each day; “bleary heads like fashion models” meaning they sway as if they are empty and without thought where models and hippies are seen as lesser, non-intellectuals. Through the setting an imagery she speaks of we imagine the poem was inspired by her home, the trees she owns and ultimately have to maintain, the night time, tall pinecone trees that ooze sap. The pictures she paints are easily constructed in out minds as we read her words.

364 Words


Work cited

Laux, Dorianne. “The Life of Trees.” Literature: An Introduction to Reading and Writing. Ed. Edgar V. Roberts. Forth Compact Edition. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2008, 474


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