Written by Rita Dove in 1937, “Parsley” is perhaps one of most political poems throughout the whole 20th century. Dove’s main aim was to describe the violence against humanity in the Dominican Republic. Dictator Rafael Trujillo, who Rita Dove calls the ‘El General’ in the poem, ordered his army to kill nearly 20,000 immigrant workers because they could not pronounce the Spanish word for ‘parsley.’
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All of the workers were black Haitians, who had immigrated in search of labor. In her short poem, Rita Dove gives a reader a glimpse of the differences between the world of Rafael Trujillo and that of black workers. The analysis of “Parsley” by Rita Dove shall be provided in this paper.
Throughout seven long stanzas, Dove describes Trujillo as a chilly and haunting person, who has no respect for human beings. Dove has successfully used poetic techniques in this work, such as imagery, symbolism, and wordplay. Imagery and symbolism, in combination with the unique tone, have evoked interest among the readers and helped to explain the central theme of the poem in a concise way.
Dove always applies imagery and symbolism in the poem to describe the events and characters that are involved in the killings. The ‘parrot’ is the core symbol of the poem. The word ‘parrot’ frequently appears throughout the whole poem. The bird is described as beautiful and bright green.
The analysis of the poem “Parsley” shows that Dove used the parrot as a symbol of the essential things in life. First, the parrot symbolizes the irony of beauty because even though the horror is taking place, the parrot’s beauty persists and remains the same. The bird also symbolizes slavery and wealth.
In lines 6 and 7 of the poem, Dove uses a simile in which she compares the parrot and the Haitian workers. In lines 17 and 18, the words “parrot” and “blood” appear in the same sentence as a symbol of death. The parrot has turned from an ordinary bird to the one that is associated with violence and death. In lines 32 to 35, the parrot appears in a cage. Here, Dove informs the reader that the bird is exotically originating from Australia. The bird is described as deliberately shy or coy, symbolizing the status of the workers as immigrants.
The word ‘parsley’ is one more symbol in the poem that is used about the atrocities and crimes against humanity because of seeming differences. As Dove’s poem summary evidences, the immigrant workers were killed because of their skin color and the inability to pronounce the Spanish word ‘Perejil,’ which means “parsley.” In lines 68 to 70, the term is used to symbolize the joy and pride the immigrants have once a son is born in the family.
The term ‘cane field’ that is used in the poem symbolizes the politics of confinement and enslavement of the Haitian workers in the Dominican Republic. The cane fields represent the ownership of wealth and slavery. Sugar cane farming is labor-intensive, but slavery and confinement of workers make it more profitable. The profits benefit only a few people, especially the owners and the government.
The term ‘maternity mothers,’ which is used in the second part of the poem, describes the power of love and family. The death of Trujillo’s mother has affected his personality, highlighting the theme of the power of love and family. However, he deals with these emotions differently from other people; he kills the Haitian workers.
In conclusion, the analysis of “Parsley” by Rita Dove shows that imagery and symbolism have been used in the poem to give it some profound meaning, as well as for the sake of creating interest among the readers.