Instructor Name 30 October 2011 Poetic Understatement The words one chooses to express thoughts and ideas often point to a deeper meaning that underlies the obvious. If taken at face value, the words may be merely entertaining; if analyzed, they can translate into a rich panorama of life-changing discovery…
In crafting “99 things to do before you die”, nila northSun selects a title that draws the readers’ attention with the promise of learning about those things that are imperative to accomplishing fulfillment in life. The poem references a list published in “cosmo mag” of “99 things to do before you die”, and goes on to explain how the magazine targeted a specific audience—rich people (northSun). The poem lists several of the line items included in the cosmo list including “div[ing] off a yacht in the Aegean”, “go[ing] to Monaco for the grand prix”, and “buy[ing] a round the world air ticket” (northSun). However, the purpose of the poem is less about how to live a fulfilling life than it is about the socio-economic and cultural disparities that exist across regions and ethnic groups within the United States of America. The author communicates this disparity directly as well as indirectly. The question, “so what’s a poor indian to do?” is a direct way of indicating that the Indian may not be in a financial situation to accomplish the goals listed by cosmo. northSun indicates that many of the line items on the cosmo list are “things only rich people could do” (northSun). ...
To communicate disparity indirectly, northSun creates a list deemed more “culturally relevant” (northSun). The list is poignant and compelling as it details things that would be within reach of the average Indian, along with other common people. One might applaud northSun’s ability to identify realistic goals, while weep at the idea that socio-economic status defines and limits the sorts of activities that one can undertake. There is a world of difference between “making love in a tipi” and “hav[ing] an affair in paris while discoing in red leather and sipping champagne” (northSun). The former is readily available, based on one’s culture and the availability of a tipi, the latter is something that many would need to plan and save to be able to do, if those wanting to make a trip of the nature would even have the means to do so. Many items appearing on the new list that northSun proposes are more along the lines of a guide to living than distinct activities that one could cross off a list. The new list suggests that one should “say something nice everyday to your mate, say something nice everyday to your children”, and “wash your hair too, and don’t forget your pits” (northSun). While following these guidelines could result in a fulfilled life free of regrets, the listed items lack the singular excitement of something such as the “go[ing] to rio during carnival” item appearing on the cosmo mag list. northSun highlights the difference between the two multiple times throughout the poem and one is left with an unsatisfying glimpse into both worlds, which may have been the author’s intent all along. A more apt title for this poem ...
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