Friday, November 14, 2014

The Silence of the Innocents in Neil Aitken’s “The Art of Forgetting“

During the journey through life we have experiences, some are good others are not so good and some are consequences of our own choices. Those bad experiences are often responsible for our negative emotions such as stress, anxiety and sadness. Nevertheless, we still feeling responsible for what we could have done differently, which drags us even further into desolation.
Thanks to my Psychology background, the analysis of this poem might be biased due to the “women oppression” sense I perceived in the lines of this poem. Similarly, my interpretation could have led me to describe the consequences that result from rushed marriages.

When I started reading “The Art of Forgetting”, I immediately felt a genuine empathy for the character and the way her feelings reflect despair. The poem starts with repetitious phases of “how to swim, how to ride a bike… how to voice my own name”. This motive might be expressing a strong desire of seeking ways to overcome a bad experience…an unhealthy marriage.  I was impressed after I read the last line of the first paragraph: “I marry to my teeth, but cannot break open”. This metaphor invoked for explaining the oppression this woman is experiencing in her new life after marriage. Women in particular are unable to practice activities they used to enjoy when they were single; even today some of them still experiencing male domination.

Moreover, the shift in tone goes from hopelessness to honoring her grandmother’s example of how she was able to forget her own life in pro of her family “wipe clean the first two years of married life, the loss of her world, my mother’s birth”.
This last sentence seems to reflect how women in previous generations were able to fulfill a unique expected mother-wife role, assigned by society. Although, some of them were not pleased with this duty, being a submissive wife required women to not resist their husband’s will.

 In addition, I immediately became touched by how women might have to sacrifice their goals because they end up marrying too soon or too early. It is not a secret that marriage is a well-known concept in the LDS culture and that some people become engaged in less than a month. As a consequence, some people experience the “…hundred shades of smog” in their every day life because they failed to truly get to know their partners before marriage. In my opinion, there might not be a specific number of years a couple had to date before they get married however, it took me six years to be convinced that I was marrying the right person.

Later in the poem, we are able to hear the character voice when she says: “I am not my grandmother …I want to remember this year and the one yet to be” this dialog allow the reader to identify a denouement in the plot structure when she says: "her muscles have memory and how this desire to become free is leading her to pray every morning". The resolution could be addressed when the character mentions, “An old horse always returns, mile after mile” in this line she implies she wants to go back where she belongs, she hankers her previous life.

I believe Aitken’s poem invite us to pray and to realize that choosing an eternal companion is not an easy task. Therefore, we have to seek guide for our Heavenly Father to find a worthy man who can take us to the temple to be sealed. Similarly, we as women have to be worthy as well to deserve these eternal blessings. As a final point, we have to know the person we are marrying, without forgetting that the Lord loves us equally, man and woman and that he wants us to be happy…”Nevertheless neither is the man without the woman, neither the woman without the man, in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 11:11)


  1. What a thoughtful, well-written analysis. Thank you for sharing this and breaking down the poem. Your observation on the author's shift in tone was very interesting and gave the rather sad subject matter some hope.

  2. You have incredible analysis here and I think that it is important to acknowledge that there are many who are getting married in LDS culture too quickly to realize that they are missing out on some life experience or maybe even marrying the wrong person. The tone shift is very powerful and portrays that she wants her life to be different from the oppressed. I think male domination and losing their lives in marriage could be and is a very real issue for some, but I also think that some find their life in divine roles- being a mother and a wife. That doesn't mean we should lose our interests etc. and I think your analysis and her poem were fantastic warnings of that.