Sunday, December 7, 2008

Situation/Setting Poem 2: Singapore

-Mary Oliver

I found this poem to be quite disturbing at first. I believe that the author does a good job of creating suspense by withholding information from the reader at first. The setting, Singapore, is relatively unimportant to the meaning of this story as it simply signifies the third-world country and thusly the desperation within it. The situation, however, is a educated woman sees another woman washing a toilet seat. This sight disgusts the first woman as she doesn't initially know how to deal with this situation. In their following interaction the author is able to create a situation that tracks human perception. The first woman has obviously not been exposed to that aspect of life, which is why she is so initially shocked. The second woman, however, is far more experienced with those aspects of life, which is why she is able to remain far more tranquil during their encounter, offering simply a soft smile. The first woman is suddenly opened up to a huge level of desperation that she has never worried about. The speaker feels superficial in her behavior, evident in her comparison between her reaction and the birds in the poem. She believes that the only reason either of them smiled is because they wished to be polite, and not because they actually cared, although it seems that at least the speaker wanted to make this connection. However it seems that through this situation, making that relationship with someone so different is very difficult.

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