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For the narrator, this disappointment is even worse than bad grades, because there is no hope of ever changing her status. While she can't see the light at the end of the academic tunnel, we as the readers know that this situation could change. No, things do not come easy for the author, but it's probably doubtful that she has sought real help for her academic woes. Her parents would likely be ashamed, unwilling to pay the price of an "A" with a tutor. However, there is no remedy for her being a girl -- she could possibly give her parents the 4.0 average they are looking for, but she can never be their son. The narrator imagines the utopia that would exist if only she were a son: I would swagger through life muscled and bold and assured/Drawing praises to me (17, 18). This stanza is absolutely heartbreaking; that no matter what she does there is no hope. She names all the things she wants but believes she cannot have: broad shoulders, approval, pride, being worthy of work, a swagger, virility and confidence. Somewhere along the line she has been taught that there are the things which are valued in life, and because she is not them, she is not valued. In this day and age, it is ridiculously sad that the idea of perfection as being male in quality is still around in certain cultures, certainly a culture that claims to be enlightened about intelligence and education.
In the second half of the poem the girl turns to the nature of her suicide. She sees herself as making a religious sacrifice. She is the offering to the powers that be, the stereotypes and expectations the keep her from turning into the woman she deserves to be. The imagery in the final stanzas points to her inadequacy again -- she is about to fly, but she is not a bird and This air will not hold me/the snow burdens my crippled wings (43, 44). The world is frozen, the air full of snow and the ground covered with ice. Her previous attempts at writing this note are drifting up below her, drifting like snow. Even this one image, of someone who feels compelled to make drafts of her suicide note, is terribly sad. I can imagine her sitting there, on the roof, weathering the cold, writing her suicide note over and over again until it is what she desires to be most -- perfect.
Finishing this poem leaves me with a sense of sadness and helplessness. I empathize with the narrator. There are so many times in our life when we desire to be perfect and put unreasonable pressure on ourselves, and there are many more times when other people in our life apply such pressure, especially our parents. The characters in the poem offer us several lessons. For parents, the message is to appreciate the children you have as they are and to see the strengths that all of them posses, even if they don't have perfect grade point averages of fulfill all your dreams of what your children would be like. For the narrator, I wish she had learned this life lesson -- don't live for the approval of others. Yes, the opinion of parents matter, and yes, grades matter, but neither matters so much that it's worth killing yourself over. Life is a much longer journey than our academic careers, and sometime in the future, though we stress about it now, our grade point averages will be nothing but a distant memory. Mirikitani is trying to teach us all a lesson with her narrator's tragic death. She could have written a different kind of poem about suicide, a depersonalized narrative that continued the reporter-like tone of the prologue, but by taking us into the mind of the girl on the edge of jumping, she makes the situation so intensely personal that we cannot turn away. We know how it ends before we even start, but we mourn all the more at the end for having the chance to meet and know the narrator…[continue]
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