Linda Pastan’s short and ironic poem “Marks” uses a sarcastic tone and a controlling metaphor to illustrate the discontent of the speaker, and how she struggles as a wife and a mother to please her family.
The title, “Marks” is the controlling or extending metaphor in the poem. “Marks” being grades. The setting is in a household but Pastan’s use of metaphor compares life to school. The speaker in the poem feels unappreciated for all the work she does in the house. The poem opens with “My husband gives me an A for last night’s supper,” and goes on to state the other grades or “Marks” her kids gives her. Pastan’s informal diction suggests that the speaker may be writing this about herself maybe in a diary or a journal. The speaker family her “husband,” her “son,” and her “daughter,” all grades her based on what she does like a student is graded in school.
They grade her differently suggesting how the speaker must meet each of their needs and standards. The metaphor suggest that the speaker feels she is taken for granted by her family. She is being judged by her family on her performance in the house, instead of receiving gratitude for all she does as a mother and a wife. The tone of the poem is also emotionless lacking the speaker feelings or thoughts until the end. Pastan shifts tone in The last line of the poem “Wait till they learn I’m dropping out.
” leads the reader to assume that she has decided to change. Her saying that she is “dropping out” could means she is changing, she is leaving the family, or she is terminating her duties as mother and wife, and looking for another career. She is “dropping out” of school or in this case life. It shows the speaker discontent and frustrations with this grading system forced on her and she no longer wants to be judge like this. Dropping out represents her committing suicide. The speaker represents Pastan herself and other women tired of being judged.
Pastan word choice is effective to conveys that it is important to appreciate and love members of our family for themselves not for what they are able to do or to provide before they are gone, literally.