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" Instead of establishing a set rhythm as with his rhyme scheme, he punctuates in order to delineate an end of a particular episode within the poem which also helps the audience understand when and where his narration changes. Each period concludes an establish section of the poem, the first period ends on "Over her, thrashing and thrusting until he was spent." (ln 8), which importantly ends his narrative of Victorian sex. The following breaks each connote the ending of one thought tangent and the beginning of another. The implication on narrative voice occurs through the shifting of his speaking tone and message after periods. In his first address the narrator is informative, the second he is reflective and the third he places mockery on contemporary standards. Thus, punctuation in this case is use to delineate what specific theme and audience he is address. The use of commas is also extremely important within the narrative style. In the first case it is used as a tool to cause rhythmic breaks within the poem such as the use of commas before and after "ahem" in the first line. It is also used to separate distinct metaphors and imagery, after each particular comparison, whether it is "getting it off on them," "expeditions grimly set off," or "the lecherous ogre bent over her" he uses commas to separate his imagery and to allow to set in with the audience. The breaks using punctuation is intentionally used to establish a secondary cadence outside the ending rhyme. The purpose being to create a second layer of emphasis upon key imagery and to control the overall tone of the piece.
Martin uses enjambment as a key literary device to emphasize "power" words within the narrative. Enjambment appears throughout the poem, however because the overall end rhyme follows a AA, BB, CC pattern the enjambment is at times much as less as in other poems. The reason that Martin employs enjambment in such a way is to ensure that certain words and phrases are emphasized within sentences. Two examples from the first half of the poem appear when he uses two power images "lie perfectly flat" and "the lecherous ogre bent." The natural rhythm of the poem through the ending rhyme forces the reader to pause despite the enjambment, which emphasizes these two powerful images. Thus, by using enjambment he calls to task the reader to understand the importance of certain phrases. Similar to imagery, Martin uses enjambment to emphasize certain words that are important to the overall message of the piece such as "forebears," "repression," "fashion" and "curious eyes." Each of these words hold an important contextual meaning to the line they are in and also ties into the primary theme of his narrative. Therefore, using enjambment in this case ensures that they are not lost amid the reading of the sentence and helps Martin in shaping the tone and narrative style throughout.
In order to tie the above literary techniques together, Martin plays a delicate balance game with the use of diction within "Victoria's Secrets." Because he wants to neither be too contrived or too relaxed, Martin chose diction that falls on either side of the spectrum to juxtapose the theme of criticism and Victorian era reticence. In his early description of Victorian era sex, he specifically chooses to use words that are uncharacteristic that description in order to place the piece in perspective. Not only does he use casual language such as "ahem" but phrases such as "getting it off on them" specifically jars with "Victorian mothers instructed their daughters." Within each end rhyme set, he uses contradicting diction style to create the contrived air of mockery. In the third end rhyme set he uses "service the toff" a traditional Victorian imagery against that of a "lecherous ogre," completely offsetting the first example. The same can be said when he uses "forebears" within the same rhyme set as "minds as unbuttoned as ours." The rapid transitions from complex language and strong diction to simple and contemporary diction are another technique that he uses to create mockery and wit within the piece. The use of contemporary ideologue in his diction jars against the formal style that one would expect from the poem's theme. This is especially prevalent when he compares "fullbreasted nymph" a strong classical imagery with "airbrushed at each conjunction." The delicate interplay of diction is an important part of what makes this poem extremely fluid and witty. As a result it leaves the audience constantly guessing, never really establishing a firm grasp of what Martin intends to do with the narrative until the poem concludes.
As a thematic devise, Martin employs paradox as one of his primary vehicles. In "each leaving a corpse in its wake to service the toff/with the whiskers and whiskey, the lecherous ogre bent" he uses imagery in direct contradiction, the purpose of such a statement is to focus our attention into his comparisons so exaggerate the distinctions between his poetic characters. In this case, he shows that the forceful nature of the brutish husband and the limp and lackadaisical mood of women after sex. In the broader context the use of paradox is at the root of his comparison between Victorian era sexuality and our contemporary sexual acceptance. In an apparent paradox, we cannot possibly be similar to Victorians, precisely because they do not have minds "as unbuttoned as ours," however through his careful dissection, he shows that although there is an apparent paradox, in reality the social institution of sexuality promoted through commercialism, captures the spirit of Victorians just as much as the frivolity of the first 8 lines. Paradox then is at the heart of Martin's poem, because he creates his mocking style by juxtaposing two social contexts that on the surface level appear to completely contradictory but ultimately similar in value standards.
The poem has this advice from Victorian mothers to daughters about sex: "The only thing for it was just to lie perfectly flat/And try to imagine themselves out buying a new hat" (lines 3 and 4). Here, women are depicted as simply putting up with sex, with no drive of their own. To maintain the base meter, "buying" in line 4 must be elided to one syllable, giving that line three anapests while taking a syllable for the team. The importance of this shift in base meter is that it transforms the cadence of the line to emphasize the phrase "buying a new hat." This adds an additional layer of meaning upon the primary interpretation of the "uselessness of women," by connoting the materialism of marriage and the false and perverse nature of marriage within the Victorian era. The importance of the hat to women within line 4, signifies the ulterior motive of why Victorian women put with sex in the first place. Martin is similarly critical of Victorian men, men are depicted as animals in bed. In lines 7 and 8, women have to make love "With the whiskers and whiskey, the lecherous ogre bent/Over her, thrashing and thrusting until he was spent." The imagery of whiskers and whiskey connotes much more meaning than the imagery might warrant on first glance. By using alliteration in this case, the narrator draws a distinct connection between unshaven or dirty, with drinking and debauchery. This allows him to make the poignant image of "lecherous ogre" much more believable for the reader. In itself lecherous ogre connotes a strongly negative position, however, the combination of ogre with the previous line's use of "corpse" juxtaposes the two into a deeper negative connotation. From an analysis of the rhyme and meter scheme, line 8 can be read three ways; this first, like the man, doesn't even try to accommodate the base rhythm, and gives an initial dactyl, a medial trochee and a medial iamb before returning to the base; his passion, like life before hygiene, is brutish and short. The line's careful breakdown from the rest of the established meter scheme creates an almost abrupt and aggressive reading of the line, subtly emphasizing his point. The second read is a line of dactyls, and it's over prematurely. The third read is a line of anapests, from which the head (like our wife's) has been removed. Compare them below:
Over her, thrashing and thrusting until he was spent.
Any of the three scansions serve the poem by saying something unflattering about our view of Victorian lovemaking. Martin abruptly transitions from his narration to contemplation of contemporary society in the next line.
This is what "we imagine, persuaded that our forebears/Couldn't have been as free from repression as we are, / As our descendants will no doubt mock any passion/They think we were prone to, if thinking comes back into fashion" (9-12). These three lines are considered the turn of the poem because they serve to transition into what Martin sees as contemporary imagery of…[continue]
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