The Victory by Anne Stevenson

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When I first looked at this piece, it reminded me of Bill Watterson's poems from the front of Calvin & Hobbes anthologies, like "The Yukon Song" from page three of Yukon Ho! ("We'll never have to go to school,/Forced into submission,/By monstrous, crabby teachers who'll/Make us learn addition."). This was primarily because the outward subject of the poem is immediately apparent: a woman complaining about her baby son. It is not hidden behind a shroud of metaphors and images, requiring particularly deep thought for understanding. The basic idea is clear. The association was also due to the almost trite A-B-A-B rhyme scheme, which makes it seem a bit comical at first glance. This carefree, sing-song format may have been used deliberately by the poet to show that, despite the negative things she is saying, she loves her son unconditionally. She can't help it. "Why do I have to love you?" she muses in line 15. This poem seems more like the things an adoring mother might say to her infant son after he awakens her in the night with his "bladed cries" than the fervent rantings of a mental patient whose son destroyed her life. The first stanza is fairly straightforward. It depicts clearly the pride a mother feels after she has given birth in spite of the physical pain it caused her. This mother thought of her son as a victory. She had won; she had fulfilled her purpose in life. Nevertheless, she immediately noticed the apparent unappreciativeness ("…you cut me like a knife") which plagues many parents through their children's first twenty years, and beyond. Clearly lines three and four, "…I brought you out of my body/into your life," refer to the actual birth of her son. The second stanza physically describes the newborn. It is extremely difficult to give birth (or so I've heard); to battle against this "tiny antagonist" who doesn't seem to want to go where he is being pushed. And when he finally comes out he is little more than a gory, eight-pound bruise. "Tiny antagonist" also introduces the idea that this is a bit of a competition between mother and infant, an idea which is revisited in the last line. The "cloud of glory" mentioned in line seven is physically the placenta, but represents a sort of organic royal robe; an air of entitlement, almost pretentiousness, that children and adolescents often have. The poem gets a little more interesting as we enter the third stanza. First, there is the word "blind" in line nine, which has a double meaning. The most obvious is that the newborn baby can barely see through his "blank insect eyes," yet he still dares to scream and demand. Far more interesting, though, is the idea that this is a "blind baby" as in a "blind shot" or a "blind curve." The mother (and probably the father, too) went into this baby-making business blindly, without fully understanding what was involved. This comes to mind for the mother now as she gets up, for the nth time that month, to feed her baby in the middle of the night. Also interesting in stanza three is the first of two animal analogies. Both the insect in line ten and the snail in line 13 are animals which are more or less at the mercy of humans. Either can be snuffed out relatively easily. This is true of the baby, too. Despite his thankless attitude, he is alive only because others allow him to be. The two small animals each individually represent other characteristics of the son. The insect is a mindless drone, existing only to eat and, it seems, to annoy, while the snail is lazy, sluggish, and snot-covered. The insect metaphor is carried to the end of the third stanza, as the baby is said to "barb the air" and "sting/with bladed cries." There is also a "Hungry snarl" in line 14. A snarl, while not animal by definition, is often associated with dogs and other beasts, so it seems prudent to tie it in. This poem, like many others, pulls out of images in the last two-and-a-half lines to dabble in self-analysis. Line 15 stands out from the rest of the poem because it breaks the otherwise rigid rhyme scheme. Again, she wants to emphasize that in spite of all she has said, she truly does love her son. However, she is also expressing genuine wonder as to why she is forced to love this creature which gives her nothin

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