Linda Pastan: Poems

Linda Pastan: Poems Analysis


In order to fully feel the emphatic nature of this poem, it helps to understand what Agoraphobia actually is. According to the Mayo Clinic, 'Agoraphobia (ag-uh-ruh-FOE-be-uh) is a type of anxiety disorder in which you fear and avoid places or situations that might cause you to panic and make you feel trapped, helpless or embarrassed.' This definition helps the reader to explore the intricacies of Pastan's poem, yet it does become reasonably evident that the speaker in the poem feels great anxiety when considering leaving the house. The opening quotation, '"Yesterday the bird of night did sit, Even at noon-day,/ upon the marketplace, /Hooting and shrieking." by William Shakespeare, is spoken in his play Julius Caesar by a character named Casca. It is in a passage denoting some fears of women in the street. This quotation may have been chosen by Pastan, in order to foreshadow her own feelings of Agoraphobia found throughout the rest of the poem. The darkness of night, represented by this bird, that continues to last throughout the day could even be interpreted metaphorically through Pastan's point of view. It may reveal a shadow of fear and darkness that prevents her from leaving her security and venturing into the world.

The opening stanza depicts an example of Pastan's justification for staying indoors. She uses gentle, yet imperative, language with the verb 'Imagine,' to direct the reader into her world, allowing them to see through her eyes. She describes 'a scene of snow so new / not even memories / of other snow / can mar its silken surface.' The repeated sibilance in this phrase creates a mood of quiet and a sense of soft reverence, almost like whispers of snow. The peacefulness of this scene makes the reader feel it shouldn't be disturbed, pushing us to support Pastan in her rhetorical questioning, 'who can blame me for refusing / to violate such whiteness / with the booted cruelty / of tracks.' By using the noun 'cruelty,' which has negative connotations, she again infuses a sense of justice in refusing to go outside, by making her action to spoil the snowy landscape seem like a crime if undertaken.

Pastan reveals that she has 'memorized,' some '23 framed landscapes, containing / each nuance of weather and light.' The noun 'nuance,' emphasizes the detail in her memories of each scene, and the number '23,' suggests that for some of the memories it is the same scene, just with a different filter of lighting and shade, or even weather. Although this scene may suggest boredom, Pastan is quick to reveal that she know 'the measure of every room,' in a positive way, 'not as a prisoner / pacing a cell.' This negative, almost reversed, simile almost reveals a hidden truth in her denial, and the alliteration of 'prisoner pacing,' shows the repetitive nature of routine and being trapped. Perhaps Pastan is revealing here that it is not within the house that she is trapped, but within her fears. She continues by replacing the prison imagery with another simile, 'as the embryo knows the walls of the womb,' emphasized also by alliteration. This simile denotes Pastan as protected in her hiding place, her home. It suggests she is nourished and safe here, with no harm threatening her. In fact, the simile continues, metaphorically representing her fear of leaving the house, in 'dreading only the moment / of contraction when it will be forced / into the gaudy world.' Here we see a deep and serious issue with leaving the house that is equated with leaving the womb, a place of motherly protection.

Stanza three shows Pastan edging towards leaving the property, as she admits, 'Sometimes I travel as far / as the last stone of the path.' However, the simile 'as in the children's story,' reveals a deep-seeded issue inherent in her nature from infancy, that stops her going any further. 'Every step [...] pricks that tender place, / on the bottom of the foot,' and with the emphatic verb 'pricks,' the reader feels the very same pain that Pastan feels as she experiences it. Yet another simile that she uses is this, 'like an ebbing tide with all / the obsession of the moon behind it, / I am dragged back.' This simile in particular does reveal her uncontrollable fear drawing her to stay near to the house, or in fact inside it, but it also shows the 'ebbing,' nature of her fear and confidence, which shifts from time to time, allowing her to make it to the end of the garden.

The final stanza depicts some musings of Pastan from within her protective walls. They show that her thought process when observing the leaves 'torn from the trees,' is that 'each leaf [is] waving goodbye to the oak / or poplar that housed it.' This personification in a metaphor reveals the innate awareness stemming from the Agoraphobia, that notices those that leave and can leave, their situation, and the ability they have to come to peace with their leaving. The passive verb 'housed,' also reflects Pastan's situation in her house, being kept in, without finally outgrowing it as the leaves do their own home. Pastan also says, 'It is not fear that holds me here but passion / and the uncrossable moat of moonlight / outside the bolted doors,' again justifying her fears by casting a positive light on the need to stay in doors.


In this poem, Pastan is giving the reasons for her faith in science and the words of the person she addresses. She mentions the 'seal of science,' emphasizing it with sibilance to show the importance of this approval. The verb 'emblazoned,' deepens the imagery of a branded seal, marked permanently on this person, giving them authority to determine what is true. Pastan compares this seal with the simile 'like the old Good Housekeeping / Seal of Approval,' which sheds some light on the character she is addressing. It appears he may be male, as the intellectual role of scientist is contrasted in this simile with a popular women's magazine. Its seal of approval is a lot less official and meaningful, and the factor it is approving, is most likely less important and significant than how the universe was made.

The bathos in the switch between 'though the language you speak / is full of numbers and symbols / I'll never understand,' and ' though your tie is askew / and your hair unruly,' shows Pastan's priorities and her trust in this person. Her repetition of 'though,' connecting these two phrases emphasizes the shift in tone from serious and intellectual, to personal and humorous. Pastan's beliefs about the universe are purely based on the words of this person as she has 'forgotten [...] already,' whether the universe is 'expanding or contracting.' She clearly has very little knowledge on this subject, and thus the title Faith is relevant, as instead of religion at this point, she puts her trust in a person to tell her the right thing to believe. It is not even the idea they present that she has faith in, or the science, put the person's idea itself, and the fact they believe it. Pastan, making a Biblical allusion to the creation story, states, 'I would believe you,' repeating it with added emphasis in, 'I would believe you / as I've aways done before.' In this scenario, she makes an understatement that if the whole perception of this person on how the world came to be is based on a 'small miscalculation,' and is completely wrong, then she will believe their new idea.


The metaphor of the 'kingdom,' creates a regal image and tone, displaying an everyday object, an egg, as something more significant. Another metaphor describes the egg itself as 'a moon / glowing faintly / in the galaxy of the barn.' This reveals not only the round shape of the egg, but its surface texture and off-white color. The setting of the barn makes the poem more realistic, as the 'kingdom,' of the hens and the egg is actually a barn. The poem keeps its mystical mood however, as the noun 'galaxy,' makes the barn seem enormous and vast and intriguing, and allows for the metaphor 'the first delicate crack of lightening,' to be included, as the metaphorical setting allows for it. The onomatopoeic 'crack,' complements the description of 'the spoon's ominous thunder,' and really paints the picture of the egg being cracked into for the reader, in a creative way.

Update this section!

You can help us out by revising, improving and updating this section.

Update this section

After you claim a section you’ll have 24 hours to send in a draft. An editor will review the submission and either publish your submission or provide feedback.