“Eleutheria” by Carolyn Kizer is an effective example of the complex relationships in marriage and work theme. Kizer compares the marriage and work relationships and the way they can affect each other. It is clear when she says that the man only married the woman, “because he believed he couldn't do better” (14). It sets the mood of the confrontation between a wife and a husband at the family level, while the man excels in his place of work. The author excellently and brilliantly captures and expresses the contrast between the two themes of marriage and work through the woman’s lamentation of her husband leaving her in “wretched shack” (9), while he “flee to the elegant home” (11)of his friends. Later on this turns around when the woman leaves the man and becomes a marriage counselor while the man continues his excellence in poetry at the expense of his family. Kizer uses different styles to capture the theme in this poem. Among the styles evident in the poem include alliteration, similes, and imagery. The major style is irony which is used throughout the poem.
The author uses alliteration throughout the poem to create a sense of desperation between the two main characters. The style is used in lines falling next to each other rather words following each other. For example, “with your brawling brats, While you flee to the elegant home...” (10-11). The letter W is used as alliteration in these lines. Other letters include O, B, and H. These letters appear in the beginning of adjacent lines to make the poem readable by everyone and keep fluency. Simile is also used in the poem. For example, “as light-footed as the elusive muse...” (16-17) is used to keep the mental picture of the man and the challenges he was facing trying to balance his family and work life. Also, Kizer makes use of imagery to depict the environmental conditions of their lives. An example is the reference to her husband’s friends as “brawling brats” (10). The author uses contrast to reinforce the theme of troubled relations of the man. For example, the man goes to teach “first class unruly students.” Despite the name of the woman implying freedom she changes its meaning through her contemptuous actions. The man also used to “beat his little sons whom he adored...” (21-22).The woman tells the man, “you’re not a man” (32) despite him being her husband. The style of contrast is used to bring out the mental picture of the troubled life that both the man and wife are leading, and also provide the reader with an opportunity to see the genesis of the trouble in this family.
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Irony is used to support the contrasts that are laid side by side throughout the poem. The first irony is the change of the meaning of the name Eleutheria. The name means freedom, but the woman is never free. Also, irony is used when the man visits his friends in “elegant house” (11), while his wife remains in “a wretched hat” yet both are working in the same place. The man is also “full of passion and tears” (56) and “famous and lonely” (57). Moreover, it is ironical that a woman who has had a troubled marriage and who treats people including her own husband with contempt becomes a marriage counselor. Then, one is left to wonder about the kind of advice she can give to her clients. Such ironical situation helps the reader to appreciate the essence of a stable family relationship above everything else.
Generally, the theme is marriage and work relationships and is supported by alliteration, irony, imagery, and similes. All these styles are meant to assist the reader to have ease in reading the poem and also give the poem fluency. Imagery and irony brings out the complex nature of the theme of the poem.