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Search For my Tongue - Sujata Bhatt

Summary:

  • The title suggests that the speaker is in search of her identity.

  • The speaker’s motivation is the fact that she knew she wasn’t the only one to feel this way.

  • The last stanza is about acceptance.

  • She uses the word tongue in three different ways- firstly as her physical tongue, then as the languages, she speaks and finally as a symbol of her personal identity and Indian culture.

  • Three stanzas- middle stanza in Gujarati which visualises how her mother tongue is flooding back. The speaker develops with the use of her native language in the middle of the poem.

Themes:

  • Identity

  • Language

  • Immigration

  • Cultural heritage

  • Confidence

  • Change/ development

Meaning:

  • The poet writes about losing her tongue because she always speaks in her foreign language.

Structure:

  • First-person narrative- personalised linguistics throughout.

  • Free-verse- no end-line rhymes. Lack of rhyme and a more conversational/ serious tone. This helps emphasise that she may be lost and the verse in between highlights how two parts of her have intertwined.

  • The lack of meter and consistency mirrors her feelings of uncertainty.

  • “You”; “I ask you”- direct address engages the reader immediately. The writer invites the reader to understand her situation and empathise.

  • “Rot, rot and die”- the word “rot” is repeated here emphasises her fear of losing her mother tongue/ her first language.

  • “But overnight while I dream”- turning point(volta) indicates a triumphant tone.

  • “It grows back,”- the comma here is to emphasise her growth as a person. It is there so that the reader can reflect on the following phrase.

  • “Grows longer, grows moist, grows strong veins”- the triad here helps emphasise her growth in confidence and her acceptance of the languages she speaks.

Imagery:

  • Symbolism helps emphasise the growth of the author in this poem. It helps highlight her confidence and acceptance of her culture by personifying the flower.

  • Two tongues in your mouth”- the metaphor here stresses the difficulty and discomfort in speaking two languages.

  • “Rot, rot and die”- imagery of death (loss of the first language).

  • The word “grows” is a direct contrast of the imagery of death in the previous stanza.

  • “Stump”; “shoot”; “veins”; “bud”; “blossoms”- floral imagery of life help provide further contrast to imagery of death. It also helps describe the beauty of her first language.

  • “It blossoms out of my mouth”- effective imagery of nature helps illustrate her growing confidence. It highlights how the poet grew up in another culture and how she has grown as a writer.

Language:

  • The language used is simple to appeal to a variety of audiences.

  • “What would you do”- invites the reader to consider her situation.

  • “Lost my tongue”- an idiom which is represented as an extended metaphor.

  • “Two tongues”- alliteration to emphasise the difficulty in speaking two languages.

  • “Mother tongue”; “foreign tongue”- contrast here between her “mother tongue” which closely links to her identity and her “foreign tongue” which feels alien to her.

  • “Your mother tongue would rot”- strong personification emphasises the slow death of her mother tongue.

  • “Spit it out”- harsh consonant sounds mirror the struggle/ fight between the two languages she speaks. It also reflects the disgust she felt when losing her original language.

  • Different language for symbolic effect. It is there to emphasise her culture and to show that both languages can co-exist and intertwine. The translation is there for a non-Gujarati speaker to grasp her experience as closely as possible.

  • Anaphora of the word “grows”- helps highlights her growing confidence.

  • “Ties the other tongue in knots”- metaphor, plosives help emphasise the strength of her mother tongue and how it has overpowered her foreign language as it is deeply embedded in her (it is her roots- her cultural heritage and no foreign language can compete with that). “It pushes the other tongue aside”- a personification

Effect on the reader:

  • The poem helps the reader empathise with the difficulties that come with speaking two different languages of two different cultures.

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