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The Mafioso Poem by Sandra M. Gilbert Essay

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Updated: Jun 26th, 2020

Mafioso talks about the problems Italians encountered when they were transported to the US with the hope of enjoying better living standards. The poem starts by describing their current status but goes back in time to their past experiences. Currently, they are mafias in the US, having given up the hope of improving their living standards. The narrator is a naturalized American citizen who is related to the mafias: “are you my uncles, my only uncles?”(Line 6 and 7). However, there is no evidence in the poem to show whether he is a man or a woman. The use of free verse demonstrates the reckless life the mafias live after being disappointed in the US: there is not proper organization of lines and sounds in the entire poem.

Personification entails making non-human objects or even animals perform actions or have qualities that only human beings have or can do. In the poem, the poet says: “No carts were waiting, gallant with paints…” (Line 18). The verb “wait” describes the act of staying in one position up to a particular time. This verb always applies when referring to human beings. It implies a conscious act of staying for a certain period while looking forward to something. The poet also personifies the buildings that surround the point where the Italians debark from their ship: “Only the evil eyes of a thousand buildings” (Line 20). The statement implies that the buildings have eyes.

The poet metaphorically refers to the vessel in which the Italians travelled as a barrel. This reference describes its size in relation to the number of Italians it carried. The Italians travelled on a ship that was barely enough for all of them.

Connotations are meanings of words other than their dictionary meanings. Usually, poets depend on cultural and social meanings of words in creating connotations. In the poem, several words are used connotatively. For example “cheese” and “spaghetti” connotes the dogmatic belief that Italians are fond of food. The words portray the Italians as behaving the way the theory alleges. “Cheap cigars” connotes the poor status of the Italians while “paint” connotes the cold welcome they received when they landed in America.

The poem uses an open form. It does not observe the rules of closed forms of poetry. For example, it does not have a regular end and internal rhyme, same sized lines, regularly numbered stanzas and meter.

Similes are forms of comparison that use words such as “like”, “as” and “than” in making comparisons between two dissimilar objects. The poet uses several similes in Mafioso. For example, “no little donkeys plumed like the drams of peacocks”. This simile describes the cold welcome the Italians received in America. The other simile is “it seems so much smaller than a piazza”. It illustrates the congestion of buildings in the debarking area. “Like olive oil” is also a simile that describes how the Americans packed the Italians in the ship as if they were not human beings. The last simile, “colder than the impossible snows of the Abruzzi” describes how eagerly the American millionaires waited for the Italians to arrive.

Extended metaphors are comparisons that extend beyond one sentence or line. In this poem for example, the use of food to refer to the belief that Italians are fond of eating: “Frank Costello eating spaghetti in a cell at San Quentin, Lucky Luciano mixing up a mess of bullets and calling for parmesan cheese, Al Capone baking a sawed-off shotgun into a huge lasagna…”

The symbols in the poem include food and gun and bullets. The food is symbolically used to refer to the belief that Italians are fond of eating. On the other hand, bullets and a short gun are used to symbolize the criminal activities the Italians turned to after realizing that life in the US is not as easy as they had expected.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "The Mafioso Poem by Sandra M. Gilbert." June 26, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/the-mafioso-poem-by-sandra-m-gilbert/.

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IvyPanda. (2020) 'The Mafioso Poem by Sandra M. Gilbert'. 26 June.

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