The poem Amanda is about a young girl and her dreams and fancies of freedom on one hand and the reality in the form of her mother’s obstructions and instructions and dictates on what to do and what not to do on the other hand. We may conclude that the young girl here symbolises all the young girls who are growing up with their worlds of fantasies and freedom but are constantly nagged by their mothers on their behaviours and ways of living a routine life.
The poem beautifully gives a picturesque portray of the world of fantasies of a girl Amanda and the constant real strikes on the girl from her mother demanding corrections in her behaviour. The poem ultimately attaches us with the girl with emotionally whereas the mother seems to be on the wrong path of not understanding her daughter and dictating her behavioural rules.
The poem keeps alternating between the voices of the controlling adult and the daydreaming of freedom seeking Amanda. This technique further highlights the conflicting themes of control and freedom in the poem.
Amanda: Rhyme Scheme
The rhyme scheme of the poem – aaba, ccc, aaba.
Don’t bite your nails, Amanda! – a
Don’t hunch your shoulders, Amanda! – a
Stop that slouching and sit up straight, – b
Amanda! – a
There is a languid, emerald sea, – c
Where the sole inhabitant is me – c
A mermaid, drifting blissfully.) – c
Did you finish your homework, Amanda? – a
Did you tidy your room, Amanda! – a
I thought I told you to clean your shoes! – b
Amanda! – a
Klein presents two contrasting perspectives and scenarios n the poem Amanda. These keep alternating through stanzas in the poem.
- Stanza 1
- The adult speaker instructs Amanda not to bite her nails or hunch her shoulders.
- She is also asked to stop ‘slouching’, that is, drooping her shoulders, and to sit up straight.
- Stanza 2
- To escape the adult’s continuous nagging, Amanda begins daydreaming.
- She dreams of a beautiful green sea of which she is the ‘sole inhabitant’, meaning, only occupant.
- She dreams of being a ‘mermaid’ who drifts or sails peacefully on this sea.
- Amanda’s daydream of being a ‘mermaid’ is rudely interrupted by the adult speaker.
- Now, the speaker questions Amanda about whether she has completed her homework, tidied her room, and cleaned her shoes.
- Soon, Amanda begins daydreaming again.
- This time, she dreams of being an orphan in the street who makes patterns out of dust with her feet.
- She cherishes the ‘silence’ and ‘freedom’ that accompany her life as a street orphan.
- The adult speaker jolts Amanda out of this daydream as well.
- She is forbidden from eating chocolates as they cause ‘acne’ or pimples.
- The adult also sharply demands that Amanda pay attention when she is being spoken to.
- Amanda’s final daydream in the poem involves her being Rapunzel, a fairy-tale princess.
- She dreams of living alone in Rapunzel’s tower without a care in the world.
- She never intends to ‘let down’ her hair or leave the tower because she can live a ‘tranquil’ or peaceful life there.
- Again, the adult speaker interrupts Amanda’s daydream.
- She is criticised for sulking and being moody.
- The adult ironically claims that Amanda’s behaviour may give others the wrong impression that she is being nagged.
Theme of the Poem Amanda
Control and Freedom is the major theme of the poem Amanda. The contrasts are highlighted through the characters of Amanada representing desire for freedom and the speaker mother representing the instructional control over freedom.
- The adult in the poem asserts control over Amanda in the stanzas 1, 3, 5, 7.
- Amanda is asked not to ‘bite’ her nails or ‘hunch’ her shoulders.
- The speaker questions about homework and the tidying of Amanda’s room. She is forbidden from eating chocolates.
- In the final stanza of the poem, the adult speaker rebukes Amanda for sulking and appearing moody.
- This suggests that the speaker is trying to mould Amanda into the ideal of a happy, well-behaved, and obedient child.
- In this way, we see how the speaker tries to control Amanda’s behaviour and her daily activities.
Desire for freedom through daydreaming
- Amanda, efforts to escape her realities of controlling over her and, turns to daydreams. These daydreams represent her desire for freedom.
The poem provides a brief glimpse into two characters:
- The Speaker (Mother)
Amanda is a young girl who drifts in and out of daydreams throughout the poem.
Imaginative: Amanda dreams of being three different figures at different points in the poem. First, she dreams of being a mythical mermaid, then an orphan, and lastly, a fairy-tale princess named Rapunzel. These daydreams indicate that she has a rich imagination.
Desires Peace and Freedom: Amanda’s daydreams symbolise her desire for freedom. The words ‘silence is golden’ and ‘freedom is sweet’ further emphasise Amanda’s desire to be free and lead a peaceful life.
Craves Solitude: As a mermaid, Amanda dreams of being the ‘sole inhabitant’ of the sea. Similarly, as Rapunzel she dreams of living alone in her tower. These daydreams indicate that Amanda craves solitude and wants to be left alone.
Rebellious: One of Amanda’s daydreams involves her being an orphan. By unconsciously wishing her parents dead in this manner, Amanda may be rebelling against their extreme control.3 of 3
The Speaker (Mother)
The unidentified adult speaker in the poem is presumably one of Amanda’s parents.
Controlling: A few examples of the adult’s controlling nature are when they tell Amanda not to bite her nails, hunch her shoulders, and dictate what she eats.
Literary Elements: Amanda
A few key literary elements in the poem are:
- Transferred Epithet
- Rhyme Scheme
- The name ‘Amanda’ is repeated in the poem to emphasise the restrictions imposed on Amanda by the adult speaker.
- Other repeated words by the adult speaker are ‘don’t’, ‘stop’ and ‘did’ which further emphasise the theme of control.
- An allusion is an indirect reference to a person, place, thing, and idea. In the poem, Amanda briefly refers to becoming a ‘mermaid’ and ‘Rapunzel’.
- A mermaid is a sea creature who is half-woman and half-fish and lives in the sea.
- Rapunzel is a character from a fairy-tale.
- Amanda, in the poem, alludes to these figures to stress on her desire to escape from her parents and live a life of freedom.
- The poem contains alliterative words to enhance the rhyme of the poem. In the poem, ‘Stop that slouching and sit up straight’ and ‘stop that sulking’ are examples of alliteration.
- The phrases ‘silence is golden’ and ‘freedom is sweet’ are examples of metaphor. Klein draws an indirect comparison between different things here.
- In ‘silence is golden’, silence is said to be as precious as gold.
- In ‘freedom is sweet’, freedom is said to be like a sweet-tasting fruit.
- Anaphora is a literary device wherein certain words are used at the beginning of successive lines.
- The words ‘don’t bite’ ‘don’t hunch’, ‘did you finish’ and ‘did you tidy’ are examples of anaphora in the poem.
- They further emphasise the nagging and controlling nature of the adult speaker.
- The phrase ‘hushed, bared feet’ is an example of transferred epithet in the poem.
- In the phrase, Amanda’s feet aren’t ‘hushed’ or silent. Rather, the phrase describes the silent way in which Amanda would make dust patterns with her feet as a street orphan.