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Ethics - Four Levels | The Flax-Golden Tales

Linda Pastan, USA (1932)

Ethics - Four Levels | The Flax-Golden Tales


Literal Comprehension: This poem is composed by Linda Pastan in which she expresses her visiting a museum and looking at the Rembrandt painting. This makes her remember an ethics class she had taken many years ago. Each fall the teacher presented the same question to the students; which would they choose if they were forced by a fire in a museum to save either an old woman or a Rembrandt painting? The question had little meaning for the students, who were restless on hard chairs and who were little for pictures or old are, but each year they would half-hearted. Alternate their answer was one year for life, the next for art. To try or make the question more relevant to her life, the poet admits she would try to picture the old women like her grandmother. One year feeling clever, the poet decides herself. Saying this, the poet was placing the burden of the responsibility of choosing on someone else. This fall the poet finds herself as an old woman in a museum, before a real Rembrandt. As she studies the painting, she notices the colors are darker than autumn, darker even the winter. The painter’s colors on the canvas are those deep colors seen at the end of a season. In the text line, however, she sees that through these dark colors earth’s most radiant elements burn. The final lines suggest wisdom and comprehension that only comes with age. Now she understands the value of the painting, as she could not as a young girl. She remembers how little meaning either pictures or old age than had for her. The restless studies, now a mature woman, place equal value on life, art, and nature. The restless students in the ethics class at the start of the poem can know nothing about old age, or about art, or even about natural life cycles – and they certainly cannot save one or the other form the death or destruction that awaits them all.

Interpretation: The speaker in this poem has described very much impressive incident in her life. As this poem also deals with death and life, she seems to accept her own approaching death rather than being depressed by it. She compares her youth and elderly life with a painting. In fact, the similarity with the Rembrandt painting carries an affirmation of life. Only as an old woman has been able to appreciate the power of the painting and the mystical ways in which human life, art, and nature are linked. By the end of the poem, readers have been led to see that between spring and fall, between the shallowness of youth and the depth of old age, when one can finally experience life’s more powerful truths. We can say that woman, painting and season all are changeable. No one can remain constant. As the season change so, the life of a woman changes. On the other hand as painting after some time changes its color, so the life of human also changes. No one can stop change or time that ultimately leads to death, decay or ruin.

Critical Thinking: This poem is comparison and remembrance of past and present with painting and season or woman. The poem has a conversational tone; the poet relates a personal experience from the past that takes on new significance in the present. Written in a simple language, use of figurate language, the poem tells a story in two parts, the second part drawing meaning from the first of its two parts defined as clear rhetorical units. Parallelism, prepetition, and irony are used in this poem suggest that it is beyond the ability of children to determine the complex moral issue. This is an analogy of life with a painting. Though the poem focuses on the narrator’s personal feelings, it has a good message of life for every human being. Like her, our life is a very changeable life, as the darkness and color of painting changes, so our life also fades and leads ultimately to death. There is a value of every age to people.

Assimilation: After reading this poem, I came to realize some knowledge of life, beauty, change as well as the value of the people of every age. This poem influenced my way of thinking very much. I would never think about any problem seriously before this. I had no so deep knowledge of the value of an old person and time, now I came to know that ethically we should value old and senior people because they are the sources of knowledge and inspiration. I started to think about everything carefully and seriously. It changed my thought.

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