The Immigrants is a poem with expected poetic devices as follow: Repetitions found in the poem are land, unknown, further, year, poor, wood glass. Assonances are “to be told” “the old one, sow” “I wish I could”. Alliterations are “gallstones in glass bottle” “carry their carpetbags” “flat the green fruit”.
Margaret Atwood wrote this 9 stanza poem with no end rhyme scheme but beautified each stanza with the use of enjambment which made the poem flow so freely.
As part of my poetic analysis, I searched for themes in the poem and below are few found:
(a) Theme of Poverty, we are made to understand the immigrants level of poverty and suffering “only to be told they are too poor/ to keep it up” (line 7 and 8) and in any foreign country they find themselves, no possession hold assurance_ whatever they have today might the taken from them tomorrow “but always they are too poor, the sky” (line 24)
(b) Theme of Instability and M
obility, according to the poem, immigrants are alway on the move and no matter how promising a place is, they never believe it can be their permanent home; “day and night riding across an ocean of unknown/ land to an unknown land” and as they move “they carry their carpetbags and/ trunks with clothes, dishes, the family pictures” (line 19 and 20)
(c) Theme of Inferiority led to the immigrants instability because they shared no equal right with the citizens “they are allowed to inherit/ the sidewalk, involved as palmlines, bricks…/ only to be told they are too poor/ to keep it up” (stanza 1)
(d) Theme of Ill-health, improper living always provide them with diseases and sicknesses to associate with. There poor conditions are easily noticed:
“I see them coming
up from the hold, smelling of vomit
infested, emaciated, their skin grey
with travel, as they step on shore” (according to the description seen in stanza 3 of the poem).
(e) The theme of Nostalgia. This can be defined as home-sickness which is caused by wistful longing for things enjoyed in the past. “they carry their carpetbags and/ trunk with clothes, dishes, the family pictures” (line 19 and 20) “like the old one, sow miniature orchards/ carve children and flocks out of wood” (line 22 and 23)
The Immigrants is a poem that revealed how unenjoyable immigrating is; how they suffer, lack possession, move from place to place because no foreign land can be compared to their own land of birth.
Samuel C. Enunwa aka samueldpoetry
(the Leo with wings flying)