Linda Pastan’s poem, “To a Daughter Leaving Home”, conveys the feelings of a mother teaching her child how to ride a bike. “To a Daughter Leaving Home” is a dramatic monologue where the narrator reflects upon a fond memory of her child’s youth when she realizes that her daughter will inevitably leave her alone. A dramatic monologue is a poem where a narrator reveals their own character through the description of an event. Linda Pastan uses the poetic devices of enjambment, metaphor, and imagery to communicate the mother’s anxiety and love for her daughter.
In the poem, “To a Daughter Leaving Home”, Pastan uses the poetic device called enjambment. Enjambment is a thought in poetry that extends to multiple lines; allowing for the poem to flow together. Pastan does not include any punctuation in the poem until the very last line. In line one of the poems, the speaker reminisces about the memory of teaching her child to ride a bike when she was 8. The speaker discusses in lines 3 and 4 how at first her daughter was wobbly and unbalanced on the bike. In line 9 of the poem, the speaker adds that she was shocked when her daughter had learned how to ride the bike so quickly. The lack of punctuation from lines 3 to 9 shows illustrates how quickly that the mother feels her daughter grew up too fast. Similar to life the bike the daughter is riding on could be dangerous or scary. The speaker in line 14 says that she “sprinted to catch up” with her daughter. The accelerated pace of this poem shows the mother’s desire to keep up with her child. The daughter in this poem keeps growing up and comes to a point where she no longer needs her mother. However, the mother is always going to see her child as the wobbly bike rider. In the last stanza of this poem, the speaker begins to illustrate an end to the memory of the bike ride. In line 24 of the poem, the speaker uses a period to signify the end of enjambment and a goodbye to her daughter.
In addition to enjambment, Pastan uses the poetic device of a metaphor. A metaphor is the comparison of two unrelated things. “To a Daughter Leaving Home” is an extended metaphor for a parent’s job to teach their children to ride a bike knowing that one day they will inevitably stop riding that bike and leave home. In the poem, the bike that the daughter is riding is a metaphor for life. Life is going to be scary and difficult as sometimes just like riding a bike. The narrator discusses that riding a bike is like life’s journey. When the parent lets her child go she is surprised to see that the daughter has conquered the “curved path of the park”(Pastan 10). The poet Linda Pastan uses a metaphor to compare the curved park path to life. Life is not always going to be straightforward and easy. Much like the path, there are going to be unpredictable bumps in the road of life that will test one’s resilience. The parent in this poem explains how they went rushing after their child because the daughter was “smaller, more breakable” (Pastan 16). This quotation explains how the daughter is viewed in the speaker’s eyes. Parents will always view their children as their babies. The daughter goes on with her life “screaming with laughter” (Pastan 19). The dangerous bicycle that the daughter has so easily learned to read is a metaphor for growing up. When the daughter is older she will begin to ride through life independently, a parent thus worries if their daughter is risking their lives for joy.
Linda Pastan also uses the poetic device of imagery which is the description of the language that appeals to any of the five senses. In the poem, the speaker is painting the picture of a memory that happened when her daughter was little. The mother illustrates the bicycle lesson that she gave to her daughter when she was eight. The reader is able to visualize the mother “lopping along beside [the daughter] as [she] wobbled away on two round wheels” (Pastan 3-6). The mother is running alongside her daughter to make sure that she will not be in danger. In this quote, the readers are able to see the unbreakable bond shared between children and their parents; who vow to take care of them forever. Linda Pastan uses imagery in the last lines of her poem to illustrate the speaker’s sadness for her daughter leaving home. The reader is able to see and feel how sad the narrator is when she states “[her daughter’s] hair [was] flapping
behind [her] like a handkerchief waving goodbye” (Pastan 21-24). The simile used to compare the daughter’s hair to a handkerchief shows how sad the narrator is about her daughter growing up and not needing her anymore. Since the day the mother taught her to ride a bike, she knows that her daughter was going to abandon her one day to live her own life.
The poem ‘To a Daughter Leaving Home” by Linda Pastan describes the memory of a mother teaching her daughter to ride a bicycle. This poem describes how a parent feels when their kid leaves home to go into the unknown and dangerous world by themselves. Pastan uses enjambment to symbolize how fast the narrator’s daughter grew up and how quickly life flies by. Linda Pastan uses metaphors to illustrate how a bumpy bike ride down a curved path is similar to the unexpectedness of challenges one must face in life. Pastan’s use of imagery paints the picture of the eight-year-old daughter riding through the park triumphantly learning to ride a bike. The speaker of this poem is imagined as a caring mother who fears for her growing child as she learns to take on the world alone. Pastan’s use of enjambment, metaphor, and imagery to emphasize how quickly the daughter grew up before the mother’s eyes.