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Adam Nirella Carter APLit 10 March 2014 A Bike Ride "To A Daughter Leaving Home" - Linda Pastan When I taught you at eight to ride a bicycle, loping along beside you as you wobbled away on two round wheels, my own mouth rounding in surprise when you pulled ahead down the curved path of the park, I kept waiting for the thud of your crash as I sprinted to catch up, while you grew smaller, more breakable with distance, pumping, pumping for your life, screaming with laughter, the hair flapping behind you like a handkerchief waving goodbye. 1




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Based on the title of Linda Pastan's poem "To a Daughter Leaving Home", one would expect the content of the poem to depict an experience of someone's daughter moving out, into the world. The actual substance of the poem; however, is different. Pastan draws the story of a bike ride that the speaker's daughter is on, and is defined by the rhythm of the poem. The various shifts in the meter of the poem, along with metrical substitutions, portray the experience of the author as their daughter is leaving home. The first section of the poem in lines one through six sets up a pattern of iambic feet, most commonly iambic dimeter. The first place this varies is line three, where the meter moves from dimeter to tetrameter. This this four foot line is divided back into two sets of iambic dimeter by a comma placed in between them. This punctuation calls attention to the word "bicycle" as well as the phrase "loping along" (3) in order to establish context as well as the motion of the bike ride. The next line is a spondee, which falls out of the metrical pattern, but also places emphasis on the line "beside you" (4). This begins to create the parallel between the bike ride and the daughter actually leaving home, as implied in the title. The iambic pattern continues, until line seven, which is where one extra metrical syllable is added. This irregularity in this line signals a shift in the rhythm and meaning, which is confirmed with the next line, which transitions from iambic to dactylic: "in surprise when you pulled" (8). This line is also end stopped wight the word "pulled", further transitioning the poem into a 'crash scene'. Lines seven through seventeen continue to progress in dactylic feet, which is a falling rhythm. This falling foot, coupled with diction such as "pulled" (8), "curved" (9), and "crash" (13), as well as the spondee

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"for the thud" as line twelve develops the images of falling downhill on a bicycle with an impending "thud". The crash is further depicted in metrical substitutions throughout this section, where a dactylic foot at the end of a line is substituted for an iambic one. The falling dactyl combined with the rising iamb furthers the sense of crashing. The final aspect of the crash scene is the spondaic and end stopped line 15 "while you grew". This line alone returns to the impression given by the title; a girl growing up and leaving home. However, when the next lines are taken into account, the word "smaller" (16), emphasized by the comma, not only describes the daughter getting farther away as she rides down the path, but also introduces irony, due to the concept that while she should be growing up, in this metaphor she is growing "smaller...with distance" (16-17). The final section of the poem alternates between iambic and dactylic lines; however, this is not the most important feature. Two of the lines, lines 19 and 22, are truncated in order to form an end stopped phrase. The first in line 19 is a truncated dactyl that causes the word "screaming" to fall at the end of the line. This creates a false feeling of panic, that is resolved on the next line "screaming / with laughter" (19-20). The second truncation is of the iambic foot at the end of line 22, and uses the "a" as a 'leading tone' to move the lines into the end of the poem, finishing with a rising iambic foot that leaves a certain expectation for the daughter leaving home.