Literary Essay Sample: Analysis of Advice to a Discarded Lover

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1481 Words
Date:  2021-06-17

The poem is written by Fleur Adcock, an editor, and poet in New Zealand. Although born in Auckland, she spent a substantial amount of her time in the UK and part of her poems seems to be from her personal life experiences having been in two marriages that ended up in divorce. According to Zamorano, (2015), Adcock brings feminism connotation in her literature. Advice to a Discarded Lover is a poem that utilizes figurative language to relay the information with extensive use of symbolism throughout the poem. In this analysis, the major theme will be expounded and the audience, speaker, and situation as well the tone will be taken into consideration with the aim of greater understanding of the poem.

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Imagery is used from the start of the poem to bring a deeper meaning of the lover. First, the ex-lover possibly a man is referred to as a dead bird that is full of maggots and brings about revulsion and disgust. A bird can allude to the freedom associated with birds because they can fly maybe to express the freedom and liberty one enjoys while in a growing relationship. However, following a break-up, even the free bird is no longer free, and it has to yield to the emotions like self-pity associated with the ending a romantically oriented relationship. Such a statement elaborates the great hatred that the woman had for the ex-lover following the stench of fresh emotions following the breakup. The aspect of death is also used figuratively to refer to the relationship (Bloor and Bloor, 2013). Like the natural death, which once it has started there is no stopping along the way, the process of death as seen here is unstoppable. Nothing is going to change the situation of the dead relationship unless ample time is given as well as space to bring the process of healing.

The healing of the emotional wounds would be depicted by the remains of the white bones of the bird which has been given ample time to rot such that the disgust is no longer there but something seemingly clean. When the bones are clean, then the power of the emotional wounds will have reduced. Additionally, the repetition of the word maggot in the poem would be used to show the bitter feelings towards the lover because of the love that went sour. It is also evident that the woman is angry and has taken a firm stand against the relationship and because of the anger, nothing would make her change her mind. Such symbolism of pain, anger, and bitterness can be seen as the first emotions experienced by a person following a breakup with their partner. The fact that the maggots take time in the decaying process before the ground can fully absorb them alludes to the fact that eliminating emotional pain takes time and an individuals perspective of an ex-lover can be very negative at first. As such, the woman tells the man not to ask for charity now because his skin is still moist with the worms and as such she requires ample time and space. When a breakup happens, it takes time to heal and brings with it emotions like anger, self-pity, disgust and even hatred. Thus allowing a partner the appropriate time to deal with the initial emotions is very prudent.

The big three are used within the poem and are important aspects of having the right understanding of the poem as the poet intended (Preminger, Warnke, and Hardison 2015). The speaker is a woman who has undergone a heartbreak possibly the man flew like a bird to another woman. The woman is giving a piece of her mind regarding the situation at hand to her ex-lover. She is talking to him about what she feels the situation is like and what she concludes regarding the mans emotions and what she desires to see happen between them at that moment. The woman does not miss her words but elaborately expresses herself. The tone of the poem one that shows sadness, sorrow and the pain of being going through the heartbreak. Because of the pain, the atmosphere in the poem is one of disgust. The woman now hates the lover so much that she cannot see herself going close to the man again or even touching his skin. She in a sense counsels her ex-lover to leave her alone until his bones are clean alluding to the complete cycle of dealing with the negative emotions until a time of emotional stability is attained. It seems the ex-lover had returned too soon making the woman more disgusted about the whole ordeal. This poem depicts a situation of the progression of events following a love affair that ends in a manner that wasnt foreseen when the relationship initially began. Self- pity is seen as the implications of the lover leaving her woman and perhaps becomes the motivating factor by which he seeks her love again. However, the woman seems to have noticed the tricks of the man, and she refuses to allow the man any chance maybe with the aim of protecting herself from more pain and possible heartbreak by the same man. The love the two once shared is juxtaposed to disgust that is evident in the poem. The situations give a broad scope of the implications of certain decisions and the importance of time in dealing with even the most disgusting situations.

The primary theme of the poem is the ability of time to heal anything and bring restoration even to a broken heart or shattered dreams. However, between the two points from whence the healing is required to the final time when healing is attained, a lot of things happen. The initial pain that necessitates healing is seen in the rotting birds, and the final reward of waiting for healing to occur is seen in the clean bones. During the process, self-pity is evidence as seen by the lover who is writhing in self-pity. Apparently, self-pity is presented in a negative connotation because it is directly towards self. Even in the society one who shows self-pity is disregarded but one who shows pity to others in need or pain is esteemed highly as noted Mulford, and Lemay, (1991). Thus selfishness and seeking ones needs only is not something commendable in the poem. In fact, the lover is lavishing is self-pity and crawling in unlovable pathos as the woman would tell him. This self-absorption negates what real and genuine love would be which would be seen in being concerned about the welfare of others primarily.

Another major theme expounded in the poem is the perception and the image that lovers have on each other following a breakup. The fact that the woman could use the picture of a rotting bird to refer to a man she once loves depicts the power of tainted image and perceptions. The weaknesses of a person are magnified, and the good things they once did are a forgotten. The strong love feelings and the longing to be with each other are replaced with an intense hatred and revulsion such that they do not want to set their eyes on each other. The poem not only uses it in writing but elaborates what happens in the natural set up among lovers. When love is no more, a person perceives the other so negatively that one may wonder if they adored each other in the first place. However, these strong negative feelings are seen to be associated with the initial days following a break-up. A person feels so betrayed that they lose objectivity and find nothing good in the person they once enjoyed their company. Nonetheless, with time the heart is made whole again and the sight of one who once hurt do not elicit negative feelings.


In conclusion, Advice to a Discarded Lover is a poem written by Fleur Adcock, having been a poet and an editor. The speaker in the poem is a woman whose audience is her ex-love whom they have broken up. The situation provides a classic description of emotions and experiences associated with a breakup. Symbolism is used extensively in the novel and the bird with maggots used to explain the revulsion. The primary theme is the ability of time to bring healing in any situation like the rotting worms are there for just a moment after which the bones are dry and clean.


Adcock, F. Advice to a Discarded Lover. Staying Alive, 283.

Bloor, M., & Bloor, T. (2013). The practice of critical discourse analysis: An introduction. Routledge.

Mulford, C., & Lemay, J. L. (1991). Robert Bolling Woos Anne Miller: Love and Courtship in Colonial Virginia, 1760.

Preminger, A., Warnke, F. J., & Hardison Jr, O. B. (Eds.). (2015). Princeton encyclopedia of poetry and poetics. Princeton University Press.

Zamorano, C. (2015). Mapping the self in Fleur Adcock's poetry: from a postmodernist sensibility to postmodern feminism. Philologia hispalensis, 13(2).

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