One Flesh Analysis by Elizabeth Jennings

This article is an analysis of the poem One Flesh by Elizabeth Jennings.

One Flesh Analysis:

In this poem, the speaker reflects on the relationship of her parents who still live together but no longer love one another and they no longer sleep in the same bed.

The tone is reflective inside where there's also a sense of inevitability.

In the title and we have this religious connotation. In the term "One Flash" suggesting that they're joined in marriage but that word flash also ironically connotes sensuality which is certainly something which has been lost in the relationship.

Let's look at the form and structure, first of all, it's a closed form poem. It's written in three six-line stanzas and the fact that it has such a strict form could suggest that the speaker is trying to place some kind of structure onto her parent's marriage. But it could also suggest the monotony of the relationship. The lines are all very much the same length pretty much all ten syllables per line.

The rhyme scheme stays the same in the first couple of stanzas but then changes in the last one. So it is slightly irregular reflecting the broken relationship between the parents.

We've also got a couple of interesting couplets here we've got a heroic couplet at the end of the very first stanza. A Heroic Couplet is two lines of rhymed iambic pentameter. So whereas before in this stanza, there was no particular meter. Here it's got a very strong iambic rhythm. So some new events the book he holds unread her eyes fixed on the shadows overhead. And that strong meter in that section there reinforces their binding marriage and the fact they're not actually going to separate. But juxtaposes is the lack of meter in the previous lines reflecting their separateness.

Although these first two stanzas end in a rhyming couplet the final one does not and that reflects again the separation of the couple.

So let's have a look at the language of the poem now.

'Lying apart now each in a separate bed' we've got that Caesura are there reflecting the separation and the fact they sleep in separate beds not together.

They're both looking for a form of escapism so he with a book she like a girl dreaming of childhood they're looking to be elsewhere they don't really want to be together.

The simile like a girl suggests that she wants to return to a happier time in her life thinking about other men. And this part of the line here it is as if they wait it's not clear at this moment because of the enjambment. It's not clear whether that refers to the men or the couple themselves is the couple who are waiting that's only clarified as we move on to the next line.

'They wait some new event' they're just waiting for something new to happen because that nothing changes in their life.

'The book he holds unread her eyes fixed on the shadows overhead' Their relationship in the life they share has come to a complete standstill nothing is happening for them.

And that reference to shadows creates a gloomy and Sombra tone. So the 'shadows overhead' could also suggest the future on happy years that they still have to spend together. It's also interesting that the husband keeps the light on while she reflects on the shadows. Again the difference between light and dark suggesting the separateness between them.

In the second stanza, we've got this image here tossed up like flotsam from a former passion. That verb toss suggests a lack of control and perhaps addressing that they couldn't have helped the way they are now introducing that sense of inevitability.

Flotsam is wreckage so that shows their vulnerability in the extent to which their relationship has broken down. And that reference to a former passion give the sense that they did once have a loving relationship and that increases the pathos of the poem.

There's this sense of coldness and coolness throughout the poem and which juxtapose is that idea of passion which we might link to heat.

We've got another use of caesura here and it follows that very short clause how cool they lie again showing their separation and that sense of the inevitability of their fate. 'They hardly ever touch or if they do it is like a confession' that where confession links back to the religious connotations of the title but in a more negative way and so does that work chastity there. So we've got this sense that they still remain true to their vows and will stay together in marriage even if they're not happy.

'Chastity faces them' so the word chastity is personified here giving it power and almost a threatening sense. And it's seen as a destination for which their whole lives were preparation again we've got that sense of inevitability reflected in that rhyming couplet which gives a sense of finality.

In the final stanza we've got the repetition of this word 'Strangely apart, yet strangely close together' reflecting the fact they're still in the house together and yet it's strange that they are because they don't love each other anymore. The fact that it's strange could be the speaker's perception or it could be the perception of the couple's themselves.

'Silence between them like a thread to hold and not wind in' These references to thread and further here suggests that the relationship itself is very delicate very vulnerable. The gradual unnoticed effects of time are compared to a feather suggesting that what's changed in their relationships happened over a long period of time and it's not something that they were able to notice. And that's reflecting the fact that they don't seem to know that they're old.


She says 'These two who are my father and my mother' so she doesn't refer to them as my parents they're separate people now.

'Whose fire from which I came has now grown cold' Again we've got that juxtaposition of heat and coolness of the passion and the cooled fire and the cold again suggesting the separateness between them and show that their passion has died out. And that final rhetorical question there again increases the pathos of the whole poem.


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