[Laura Riding Jackson’s Use of the Mundane to Redefine the World / Samantha Cypret]

The use of figures, seemingly related or non-related, is a vital component in Jackson’s descriptions of people, emotions and concepts. Writers often use figurative language to describe and understand the subject matter. Jackson does this as well in this piece, but she does so in a more perverted fashion in order to refigure popularly identified feelings and associations. For instance, she recreates the idea of creationism as “stealing one thing to turn it into another.” Dickinson was popular for this in her poetry prose but Jackson presents her ideas in a lyrical essay format that seems to provoke a sense of passionate rambling and quick withdraws from what the reader would typically think.

She begins with one of the longest sentences in the piece by presenting people involved in her life and the service industry. This leads into talking about economics as to how these people connect with herself. Then, into genesis and how she refuses the idea of an original beginning. Instead, she is the cause for her dressmaker, Mrs. Babcock, and Mrs. Babcock is the cause for herself. If it weren’t for Mrs. Babcock, the narrator would not wear frocks. If the narrator did not wear frocks, Mrs. Babcock wouldn’t have a reason to make them.

When reading, we often make assumptions based on word choice but Jackson quickly destroys any original thought you may have as a reader about what she is describing.

When beginning to discuss creation and genesis, as a reader, we may quickly assume she is speaking of a Christian stereotype which suggests all answers lie within matters of money or that everyone alive is serving a “purpose”. Jackson seems to know the precise moment assumptions are made when reading her piece because she quickly squashes them by redefining the figures she just used. She does this by starting a sentence with “Do not speak to me of” and then continues on defeating the reader’s original thoughts as if she is in our head.

She manipulates common associations of words in a way that delivers a message entirely different from what is expected. Her largest and perhaps most revolutionary reformation is describing the feeling of loathing as an intimate relationship between the loather and loathed. Usually, the feelings associated with “intimate” are more positive and loving. Here, Jackson decides to define loathing as more romantic than love because of its pure nature. The narrator describes the feeling of loathing to be more easily understood than love because love is “simply a matter of history, beginning like cancer from small incidents”. Not only is this author working to describe the relationship based on loathing as an intimate one, but she uses love in relation to a “cancer”. She refigures the typical expressions behind these words in order to convey new meaning to them.

Her final sentence hits hard and clearly perverts common emotions behind words and their meanings: “It would be terrible to me if we ever became friends, like a divorce.” Using negative connotations in a positive manner, like equating friendship with divorce, reforms the meanings of words and creates a discomfort that works so well in this piece. The narrator delivers her newly defined emotions in a way that makes this reader question not only the purity of my own relationships, but see those I may loath in a new light.


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