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Thoughts On “A Person/A Paper/A Promise” Essay, Research Paper

A Person/A Paper/A Promise is by far my favorite poem. It may not be the best poem ever written, but it expresses feelings and situations that I, as a human being and especially as a teenager, can relate to very deeply. The author describes a series of situations in the life of a person that resemble our own experiences or those of people we know. He manages to create a deeply affecting and poignant mood and compassionate, sympathetic feelings in the readers.

The poem is divided into four stanzas, each of which narrates an episode in a boy’s life. In each of the stanzas, the events and the people revolving around them are described, and in the following stanza, we read about how those events or people have changed and why. In every stanza, the boy writes a poem about a different subject, which we’re led to believe is of major importance to him. The topics of his poetry change as he grows up, from his dog to the season, from his girlfriend to, in the final stanza, “Absolutely Nothing”. These changes show us how the boy’s perspective of life constantly evolves.

As a narrative poem, A Person/A Paper/A Promise has all the elements of a short story, including a rising action, which begins in the second stanza with his discoveries about how the people and things he took for granted, such as Santa Claus or Father Tracy, his priest, or sex, even, are not what they seemed at first. This rising action intensifies in the third stanza, when the kid, already grown-up now, is jaded, doing things because he has to, his family life being practically non-existent. This situation inevitably leads to the climax in the fourth stanza, when they boy writes his final poem, “Absolutely Nothing”, and commits suicide.

Basically, over the years his life changes from “perfect” to meaningless, empty and chaotic, and he decides to end it.

To me, this poem represents why we must rely on our inner strength when difficult situation arises and not give in to despair, because life is too precious a gift to waste it that way. I think that though it can touch anyone’s heart, A Person/A Paper/A Promise has a stronger effect on people who, like me, have lost (or nearly lost) a loved one to suicide. Sometimes, we just don’t understand how a person could kill himself. Throughout the poem, we learn about the kind of life the character’s living and we sort of come to sympathize with him and understand his feelings. And yet, we can’t help but feel impotent, seeing someone, even if he is fictional character, end his life by choice.

This poem has made me aware of how I should make the best of what I have and live every instant to the fullest. And if I may ever find myself in a situation where I think I’m completely helpless, I’ll know that life goes on and ending isn’t the way to solve my problems.


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