An Easy Passage Analysis by Julia Copus

An Easy Passage Analysis: The narrative of the poem focuses on a single moment where a young teenaged girl is climbing back into her family home after escaping to go to the beach with her friend.

However, the narrator is an omniscient narrator who is able to tell us more about the girl's thoughts, her mother's thoughts and the thoughts of a passing secretary.

The narrator also presents a view of their own in the form of a question half-way through the poem.

The message of the poem is that moving from childhood to adulthood may seem exciting but it is full of danger and disappointment but we only realize this when we are adults.

The poem seems to contain the following contrasts:

  • childhood and adulthood
  • freedom and confinement
  • children and parents
  • interiors and exteriors
  • heat and cool
  • sunlight and shade
  • fear and confidence
  • functionality and beauty 
  • past and future
  • nature and industry

TASK: Identify these contrasts in the poem, supporting them with quotations and commenting on the impact they have on the reader.

An Easy Passage Analysis

Structure and Form

There are narrative, descriptive and rhetorical forms of writing in the poem which is a single stanza comprised of five sentences, two of which are extremely long.

The three short sentences mid-poem include one rhetorical question which seems to be the main theme or central message: 'What can she know of the way the world admits us less and less the more we grow?' This pattern of sandwiching a philosophical point in the middle of a poem follows an ancient Hebrew poetic tradition found in the Psalms in Old Testament writings.

It makes the impact of the poem more profound.

Language

The poem is split into three sections:

Section 1: Lines 1-17a
  • The title of the poem has a double meaning; the ease of the route into the house and the idea of a 'rite of passage' or initiation ceremony that marks the transition from child to adult. Said quickly, the phrase 'an easy passage' sounds like 'uneasy passage', reflecting the tension and discomfort of the girl's position on the roof.
  • The poem begins with an immediacy of the event, that we feel immersed in from the start because we arrive in the middle of an action, 'once she is...' is a phrase that would normally be found after an introduction. The preposition 'once' makes the reader feel like they interrupt the girl's action, almost like a voyeur. 
  • Words indicating danger such as 'narrow windowsill' and 'sharp drop' contain an alliterative repetition which emphasizes the peril that the girl is willingly embracing
  • 'With whom she is half in love' is an idiom suggesting that the girl is unsure of her sexuality. The phrase makes the reader wonder what will happen when the girls get into the house.
  • 'Flimsy, hole-punched, aluminum lever' is a triplet of adjectives describing the unreliable and weak nature of a device that assists the opening of the window. It is concerning to the reader that this device is weak since it renders the passage more dangerous.

Section 2: Lines 17b-19

  • This section contains three short sentences which drawback from the action. They give the reader a chance to draw a breath, to consider what is happening, just as the girl is pausing, perhaps reconsidering her actions.
  • The rhetorical question is an adult voice that puts the problem of experience at the feet of the 'world' rather than the girl 'what can she know...' The problem is that the freedom and possibilities anticipated by young people are false. Instead, the world becomes more and more demanding, 'admits us less and less', shutting us out instead.

Section 3: Lines 20-end

  • This is all one sentence but the excitement has gone and a tone of weariness sets in. The image of glowing girls 'lit as if from within, their hair and the gold stud earrings...' is like a dying light, making the reader wish that it could continue for them but knowing it won't.
  • The fear and envy felt by older women towards these girls is evident in the repetition of the word 'far'. Neither the 'mother' or the 'flush-faced secretary' feel admiration for the girls' adventurous spirits. The mother denies her the 'key' to adulthood, wanting her to remain inside the 'family's house' (line 2) in the 'shade' (line 39) whereas the secretary's threefold hopes reflect the disappointment that she has with her adult life. 
  • The last five lines of the poem present a girl who seems to have grown up, even in the course of the poem. She now has the weapons of adulthood, 'the flash of armaments', she wears a fashionable anklet which, together with the 'shimmering oyster' nail-polish shows that she is feeling at home with adult fashions. Her final action, dropping into the house, is complete. She has passed the line of no return. 
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