English 1102 9 September 2011 Thesis: Clifton declares that she will not abide by the rules society has created for her physically, ethnically, or sexually.
I. Physically a. Big b. Need space c. Doesn’t fit into petty places II. Ethnically a. Enslaved b. Go/do what they want c. Free/ don’t like to be held back III. Sexually a. Mighty b. Magic c. Spell/spin Lucille Clifton is an American writer and poet. Her poem, “Homage to my Hips,” is one of her many poems that discussed issues in society.
This poem discusses Clifton’s hips, and how they are free from the certain views of society that she does not agree on as well as how she is proud of her “hips” and respects herself regardless. She uses word choice and personification to describe ways her hips stand for what she believes in. Clifton declares that she will not abide by the rules society has created for her physically, ethnically, or sexually. In the first few lines of her poem, Clifton rebels against the views of physical beauty made by society.
She says, “these hips are big hips,” and by doing so says that she is not the image of perfection yet she is still proud of herself (1). She will not be ashamed of how she looks just because at the time society expected women to look a certain way, that way being thin. She goes on to say that “they need space/to move around in” (2, 3). Here, space physical and emotional space. Meaning, she not only is larger than the ideal “American” woman, but she also has big emotions. Clifton says her hips won’t “fit into little/petty places” (4, 5). When she ays this, she means will not conform to the small ideas of man. She ignores the narrow-mindedness of society and still stands tall and proud, no matter the size of her hips. Clifton takes a stand for her ethnicity in the next lines of her poem. When she says “these hips/are free hips/they don’t like to be held back,” she is making a point that even though she is an African American woman, she believes in Civil Rights and free will for anyone, regardless of the color of their skin (5, 6, 7). In the next line of her poem, Clifton says “these hips have never been enslaved” (8).
During the time in which this poem was published, the Civil Rights movement was still somewhat new to America. When she says this, Clifton is making a point that even though people may believe and want things differently, she is still a free woman and will always be. Clifton also says of her hips that “they go where they want to go/they do what they want to do” (9,10). This means that despite of her ethnicity and society’s racial views, Clifton will not shy away from doing what she wants and going wherever she pleases.
She says that no one can stand in between her and her freedom. She will still be a strong, free-willed woman with her own opinions and her own way of living her life. Not only does Clifton not let society hold her back from her beliefs in physical beauty and ethnicity, she also does not let it hold her back sexually. She says “these hips are mighty hips,” meaning that she is a strong, powerful woman in more ways than one. Clifton also says her “hips are magic hips” (12).
By doing so, she is discussing how her hips are viewed by men and how they are attracted to her. She is aware of how they look at her and is not ashamed. At the time, women were thought to have been more modest, yet Clifton chose not be. In the last lines of her poem, Clifton says “I have known [my hips]/to put a spell on a man and/spin him like a top” (13, 14, 15). As stated before, she is not ashamed of knowing what she can do to a man. In fact, she is proud. Even though at the time society believed women should not be so forward, Clifton did not agree.
Lucille Clifton chose not to conform to the views of society during the time of writing her poem. She chose to rebel against the rules created for her physically, ethnically, or sexually. She uses word choice and personification to describe how she will not back down from her beliefs on how she should live her own life. By doing so, she creates a piece that Works Cited Clifton, Lucille. “Homage to My Hips”. Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, Drama, and Writing. X. J. Kenedy, Dana Gioia. (2010). Print.
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