Unpinning the Dress

ITMFL2

In this extension tutorial, 17-E1 examines the use of voice and rhythm to Christine Chia‘s pithy and potent ‘New Year Dress’.  Remember to apply the skills of picking out (for voice) perspective, tone, verbs, adverbs, adjectives, (for rhythm) pauses, end-stopped lines and enjambment from our retread of Larkin’s ‘Mr Bleaney’. 🙂

New Year Dress

A dress is not just a dress
when your mother gives it to you
with the instruction that you
must wear it on the first day
of Chinese New Year.                                      5
You’ll never buy anything like that
but you put it on,
so that she’ll be happy,
radiant in front of the relatives
because she birthed you,                                10
clothed you, owned you,
like the dress she gave you.

> ‘.’ <

Write a critical paragraph on the above poem, relating it to the portrayal of the relationship between parent and child. You may respond to the guiding questions below, or roam free. Upon completion, let Mr. Lim know and await a few less-than-motherly words of affection. If given the green light, your newly clothed paragraph can see the light of day – post it as a comment here. Remember to leave your name somewhere!

> ‘.’ <

What

  • Who is the persona, and what are her feelings about the ‘New Year Dress’?

How

  • Why does the poem employ the second-person point of view (‘you’)? What is the tone, or attitude towards the dress?
  • Which words in lines 1-9 express the persona’s tone? Identify patterns of words (e.g. conjunctions, modal verbs, adjectives) and closely analyse how they evoke the tone.
  • Comment on the progression (change in effects) in lines 10-12, considering 1-2 features listed below:
    – Enumeration, or the listing of verbs (birthed, clothed, owned)
    – The repetition of ‘you’ at the end (i.e. epistrophe) and the pauses after ‘you’
    – The shift from enjambment (lines 1-5) to end-stopped lines (lines 10-12)

Why

  • What does the persona’s attitude towards the dress suggest about her relationship with her mother?
  • What can we say about the relationship between a parent and a child in general?

20 thoughts on “Unpinning the Dress

  1. The persona conveys the idea that she is merely patronizing her mother and that she is somewhat upset that she is being made to wear the ‘New Year Dress’ against her personal will. The persona’s tone is one of distaste with the ‘New Year Dress’ and this can be seen from the persona’s diction. The use of imperative mood in ‘you must’ and ‘you put it on’ as well as words conveying an idea of suppression like ‘instruction’ portray the idea that the persona is being obliged to wear the ‘New Year Dress’ out of a tenuous respect for her mother and that she would otherwise ‘never buy anything like that’.

    The persona also conveys the idea that she is merely patronizing her mother and in that sense, is her mother’s plaything of sorts. The persona portrays the figurative idea that she is being subdued and merely a possession of her mother through her diction. This can be seen from ‘she birthed you’, ‘clothed you’, ‘owned you’, and ‘gave you’. These words convey the idea that she is being objectified for her mother’s pleasure and is being made to compelled to wear the ‘New Year Dress’ so that her mother ‘[will] be happy’. In a sense, the persona is being treated like a doll by her mother and is dressed up prim and proper so that her mother can show off her new ‘toy’ to her relatives.

    The poem makes use of the second person to convey the idea that this phenomenon occurs is a common occurrence and that the reader would be more than able to empathise with the persona. The persona portrays her own relationship with her mother as one between an owner and an object. She feels that she is being oppressed against her own free will and that her mother is in a sense, her owner. The persona is trying to depict the relationships between mothers and their spawn as tenuous relationship and relationships that can more often than not, be one that is only maintained because of a sense of moral obligation and/or blood ties.

    – Gideon Law 17-E1

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  2. The new year dress is a representation of the relationship between parent and child. As seen in the poem, when gifted the new year dress, the persona expresses distaste towards the parent’s choice of the dress. The use of imperatives like ‘never’ reveals that the persona would not even choose to purchase the dress for herself. Following that, she does not elaborate on the design of the dress, plainly describing it as ‘like that’, showing her detachment from the dress and its lack of attractiveness to her. However, the persona still decides to compromise with the parent in the end, as seen from words like ‘but’ and ‘so that’, as she places the parent’s emotions before herself. This shows that the persona treasures her relationship with the parent enough to forgo her slight discomfort. Additionally, the persona utilises the second-person point of view. Words like ‘you’ call out to the readers and brings out a sense of empathy in them, as they attempt to relate to the persona’s plight. All in all, New Year Dress shows that with every relationship, there are its agreements and disagreements, and its compromises.

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  3. The poem portrays the conventional relationship between mother and daughter, through the tradition of having to purchase a new dress to don during the Chinese New Year. The poet uses the second person point of view to suggest that this behaviour and routine is practiced by many. The use of the second person also implies that the ‘you’ mentioned is helpless and under control, as there is a higher authority present, which is, in this case, the mother of ‘you’. The tone employed is that of a assertive one, as there are repetitions of the pronoun ‘you’, and the usage of absolutes such as ‘must’ and ‘never’. This further emphasizes that the reader is not in any position to reject the dress from their mother, and has to wear it against their own free will, as mentioned in ‘you’ll never buy anything like that’. The persona also puts across that the mother is the dominant figure of the reader’s life, as the reader has to follow her ‘instruction’ in order for her to ‘be happy’. The usage of enumeration and repetition of ‘you’ in ‘birthed you, clothed you, owned you’ implies control over the reader by the mother, but also suggests that the reader is indebted to her mother, and that wearing the dress is a way to show her filial piety. In a nutshell, though the reader dislikes the dress given to her by her mother, she still wears it to fulfil her duty as her mother’s daughter and to make her mother proud by looking her best in front of her relatives. This filial piety is a typical mindset for the Chinese race, hence the poem effectively depicts the general relationship between Chinese mothers and daughters, and serves as a critique on the lack of freedom of choice on the daughter’s part due to the sense of duty she possesses as a result of obligation and gratitude towards her mother for her years of upbringing.

    Jermayne Yeo 17-E1

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  4. In the poem, the poet portrays the typical relationship between mother and daughter through the gifting of a dress from mother to daughter. Throughout the poem, the poet employs the second person point of view through the repeated use of the pronoun ‘you’. While the persona is the poet herself, she addresses the reader directly through the use of ‘you’, prompting the readers to put themselves in her shoes and allowing them to relate to her thoughts and feelings towards the dress. The persona possesses distaste towards the dress, but adopts a constant tone of resignation and obligation. Her distaste is brought out through the use of absolute terms such as ‘never’ when she addresses if she would purchase the dress. The constant tone of resignation and helplessness is emphasized through commanding words such as ‘you must’ and ‘instruction’, where an impression of obliged submission of the daughter to the mother’s wishes is created. Her tone of resignation and obligation is further highlighted by the use of enumeration is lines 10 and 11, the listing of verbs such as ‘birthed’, ‘clothed’ and ‘owned’ hints at her obligation to listen to her mother because of the sheer control her mother has over her life. The shift from enjambment to end stopped lines render the lines beyond line 5 to seem instructional in nature. The constant pauses created by the commas give off the effect of instructional listing and sound systematic, suggesting that the persona is just going through the motions in order to please her mother. The poem serves as a critique on the submissive and authoritative relationship between a Chinese daughter and mother

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  5. The persona does not want to wear the New Year Dress but she makes an effort to compromise and follow her mother’s instructions to wear it on the first day of Chinese New Year. The persona’s tone is rather passive whereas her mother’s, commanding. ‘A dress is not just a dress’ suggests that the persona views the dress as something more than ordinary, perhaps an item of a certain value because it was given to her by her mother. Although she would ‘never buy anything like that’, she still chooses to out of obligation to make her mother ‘happy’, portraying the warm relationship between mother and daughter (persona). The enjambment in lines 1 to 5 provides continuity rhythm to the poem and the transition to the use of end-stopped lines in the second half of the poem effectively creates pauses for effect and places emphasis on the verbs ‘birthed you, / clothed you, owned you’, essentially describing the role of her mother in her life. The entire poem also only makes use of the pronoun ‘you’ and the constant emphasis on the word hints that in a way, her mother is in control and the persona has to wear the dress out of compliance to please her.

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  6. The persona, the daughter, demonstrates her distaste towards the dress as she takes on a slightly complaining tone. The use of enjambment demonstrates her unwillingness to comply with her mother’s firm instruction, brought out by the use of the imperative ‘must’. The repetition of ‘you’ mimics the authoritative, nagging tone of the mother, further revealing the persona’s reluctance towards the dress. There is a shift in attitude towards the end, brought out through the listing of verbs ‘birthed’, ‘clothed’, ‘owned’ which indicate the mother’s hard work and devotion to the upbringing of her child. The pauses after ‘you’ allow for reflection as the persona comes to realise the significance of filial piety in wearing the dress and wears it in a form of duty and servitude to her mother.

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  7. It is evident from the poem that the persona portrayed in the poem has a negative attitude towards the dress. It can be mainly seen through the tone and diction used in the poem to describe the dress itself and the personas thoughts. It must be noted, however, that despite the consistent use of ‘you’ in the poem is not in reference to the reader but in reality this ‘you’ is actually referring to the persona. This hence makes the poem in reality, first person instead of second. The use of ‘you’ has this somewhat imposing feel because it’s forcing and telling the readers what they are supposed to be feeling (basically what the persona feels/thinks). The use of the phrase “You’ll never buy anything like that”. Is actually referring to the fact that the persona will “never buy anything like that” and this gives readers the first sign of the persona’s attitude towards the dress, being, distaste or dislike. This is because of the fact that the phrase is a declarative and the tone used is rather blunt and forceful (especially the use of the word ‘never’). The next line in the poem, “but you’ll put it on, so that she’ll be happy” also shows a lack of will as the persona is simply wearing the dress for the happiness of her mother. And again this shows her distaste for the dress. It is also in these two lines we get introduced to another ‘character; the persona’s mother. In these two lines, the persona seems to show a degree of affection for her mother by displaying selflessness. She, despite hating the dress, wears it for the sake of her mother: “so that (her mother will) be happy, radiant in front of the relatives”. The tone however changes slightly in the next line, “because she birthed you”. This line changes the action of wearing the dress from supposed affection to a feeling more obligatory implying that she is expected to obey her mother and make her happy because her mother gave birth to her. This lessens the initial ‘affection’ we saw between mother and daughter to something more procedural. In the last stanza, the two lines “clothed you, owed you, like the dress she gave you” completely deconstructs the slightly mixed mother-daughter relationship to a relationship much more strained and negative. The relationship now portrayed is very possessive and objective as the persona refers to her as a dress, an object. And to make it worse, an object the persona hates, as shown in the beginning of the poem. This can be linked to the constant use of ‘you’ and the use of short sentences; repressive and imposing.

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  8. The daughter receiving the dress is hesitant to wear the dress as she would ‘never buy anything like that’, but for the sake of pleasing her mother who picked it out for her, she puts it on and meets her relatives on the first day of Chinese New Year. The tone of the persona is imperious, littering rather declarative sentences throughout the poem, addressing the readers as ‘you’ as if she is reciprocating her mother’s tone when she was issued the instruction to wear the dress. The persona’s use of imperative words like ‘must’ and ‘never’ evinces her indignance and dismay in the fact that she has to wear the dress just to please her mother. She also uses the adjectives ‘happy’ and ‘radiant’ in front of the relatives when the persona wears the dress, making a stark juxtaposition with the persona’s ill-feelings of wearing the dress she does not like and the mother’s contrasting pride of her daughter, almost making it look like the mother only wanted her daughter to don that dress for her delirium or her own benefit. Thereafter in lines 10 to 12 the persona enumerates ‘birthed’, ‘clothed’ and ‘owned’, adjectives that describe what a parent’s duty to her child was, as if the persona was quoting what her mother tells her repeatedly to evoke a feeling of indebtedness to her, resulting in the persona obliging to wear the dress. Through the persona’s diction, it is evident that she is obligated to follow her mother’s wishes even though she was unwilling to, and feels resentment towards her for using her as something to brag about to other people, highlighting her stress in upholding her mother’s reputation for her and their strained relationship that is built upon the traditional asian values of filial piety, that are binding the daughter to abide by her mother’s will.

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  9. The persona is the daughter of her mother. She feels resigned about the ‘New Year Dress’ whereby she personally does not like it but has to wear it in order to appease her mother. The second-person point of view is a means of communication in order for the persona to connect with the reader, whereby the use of pronoun ‘you’ personalise the poem and makes it more intimate. As such, the persona is attempting to get the reader to feel the same resignation she felt. The use of absolute in ‘never’, and modal verb ‘must’ imply the persona has no choice, due to the mother’s firmness and ‘instructions’. As such, this shows her resignation. However, this is followed by the conjunction ‘but’ in a run-on line, which emphasizes her willingness to concede to her mother. The enumeration of ‘birthed’, ‘clothed’ and ‘owned’ while reveals a mother’s love to a certain extent, I think that perhaps the bigger message is how the listing of these verbs shows a mother’s dominance over her daughter whereby a daughter is similar to an object owned by the mother, like the ‘New Year dress’. The repetition of ‘you’ reveals the growing intensity of how the mother has done so much for her daughter, thereby suggesting obligations involved in a mother-child relationship, also tying in with how in order to appease her mother (perhaps due to the persona feeling obligated to her), the persona is still willing to wear the dress for her mother. The dress is a reflection of the relationship shared between mother and child whereby the mother owns the persona like the dress she owns. While it conveys the closeness and intimacy of the relationships, the give and take between the two parties seem almost transactional due to obligations.

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  10. The poem depicts the perspectives of the persona, who carries the role of a daughter, on having to wear the ‘New Year Dress’. She is not very keen on wearing the dress, from the way she says ‘[she’ll] never buy anything like that, but complies with her mother regardless out of obedience as can be seen from the use of the word ‘must’. Furthermore, the lines ‘because she birthed you,/clothed you, owned you’ illustrate a sense of obligation by the persona to don the dress. It conveys the traditional Asian value of filial piety and how the persona is somewhat indebted to her mother who has nurtured and raised her. Besides that, the poem’s employment of the second-person point of view ‘you’ allows the reader to empathise and identify with the persona. In addition, the persona evidently values the relationship with her mother as she does not object to wearing the dress despite not liking it very much, just so that ‘she’ll be happy’.

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  11. The poem ‘New Year Dress’ uses the object, the new year dress, to portray an image of the conflicting relationship between parent and child. Written in the second-person narrative, with the constant use of the pronoun ‘you’, it seems like the persona is using an instructional and somewhat forceful tone as the use of the pronoun ‘you’ seems to be giving the idea that there is the presence of accusation or commandment. This thus gives the reader some insight as to how the persona feels about the new year dress she is seemingly forced to wear by her mother-that she feels unwilling and unhappy about wearing the dress, reinforcing the idea that there seems to be a clash in opinions between the persona and her mother. This conflict is further showcased as the persona uses the words ‘instruction’, which perhaps shows how the persona is forced against her will to do something she does not like. The use of the modal verb ‘must’ also reinforces the idea that the persona does not have a choice or option to not do something she does not like, highlighting how the persona does not have an exactly pleasant relationship with her mother. This is also evident from lines 6-8, where the persona says ‘so that she’ll be happy’, which shows how the persona is trying to please her mother and she willingly does something she dislikes just to please her mother, emphasising how the relationship between the persona and her mother is somewhat forced and strained where it is obligatory for the person to please her mother and that there seems to be no genuine affection present in the relationship The use of the absolute ‘never’ intensifies the persona’s dislike for the dress, which then presents an even more stark contrast between the persona’s feelings and her actions and more importantly the persona’s mandatory need to please her mother. The use of enumeration in lines 10-12, where the persona lists verbs, such as ‘birthed’, ‘clothed’, ‘owned’; which refers to the things her mother has done for her, seem to exhibit a relatively lamenting tone of the persona as she seems to be speaking in the perspective of her mother, who has probably listed all these things that she has done for the persona to remind the persona why the persona has to please her mother, further highlighting how it is out of a sense of duty that the persona has to please her mother. The use of the word ‘owned’ further highlights how the persona owes her existence to her mother, which further highlights the commitment and the moral responsibility the persona has to her mother.The constant repetition of ‘you’ in lines 10-12 also gives a similar effect of accusation as throughout the poem, which reinforces the persona’s seemingly forceful and aggressive tone towards her mother, clearly displaying the conflict between parent and child here. In general, the new year dress represents an example of how the persona is forced to please her mother and this thus presents a picture for the reader of how distant and forced the relationship between parent and child is.

    –Min Yi
    17-E1

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  12. The persona appears to be a daughter of a mother who has received a new year dress, despite not having any personal reference to herself in the poem, we can infer that she feels obliged and resigned to comply to her mother’s wishes to wear the new year dress. The poem adopts a second point of view approach to narrating of the poem despite the experience being one that is personal to her. The second point of view approach makes give the poem an overall cold and detached feeling which puts the readers in the shoes of the persona to feel the same emotions of resignation and obligation towards wearing the dress. In the line, ‘A dress is not just a dress’, the phrase ‘not just’ brings out the significance that the mother sees in the dress which the persona did not have the same view on. The controlling and firm insistence of the mother can be seen from the words ‘give’, ‘instruction’ and ‘must wear it’ which are words that are absolute with no space for the persona to have a say in. The persona shares an opposing view with the mother seen from the line ‘never buy anything like that’, the absolute term used in the line suggest how the persona dislikes the dress and would never get the dress willingly. However despite the opposing and polar views, the persona still obliged to her mother’s wishes seen from the conjunction ‘but… so…’ revealing her reluctance and unwillingness in her obligation to her mother. ‘birthed you, / clothed you, owned you’, the listing of these words seems to show an increasing possession that mother have over the persona to the point of absolute control and lack of freedom. The repetition of ‘you’ in lines 10 ro 12 seems to signify how a demanding mother would expect her child to follow her wishes as it is a duty as a daughter to obey her mother who has taken care of her, thus this brings out the persona’s lament of her mother’s control over her. The pauses after each phrase in line 10 to 12 add emphasis to the following phrase following it, like an accumulative effect of her growing frustration at her mother’s control in the mother-daughter relationship. The dress in the poem represent the objectified persona who is viewed as a possession to her mother, an object to flaunt to others of her mother’s achievements just like the dress she is made to wear to show off in front of their relatives. The persona’s dislike towards the dress shows her is weariness and frustration at the relationship she shares with her mother due to how her mother is dominating and controlling and that the persona has no say in the relationship. The mother seems to be depicting a typical ‘tiger mum’ parenting seen in Asian families where the parents exert absolute control over their children, making their children do what they deem to be the best and not to what the child favours. This results in a rather strained relationship between parent and child where there isn’t much communication but the parents forcing their children to do what they think is the best and the children complying in reluctance because of their obligation as a child.

    – Lee Jue Rui

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  13. The persona is the daughter receiving the New Year dress. The idea presented is that the persona hates the New Year dress. This is shown through the diction, “You’ll never buy anything like that”. This shows that the persona does not like the dress her mother has chosen. This is further emphasised through the choice of words such as “never” and “anything like that”, as it shows that the persona would never ever buy a dress of similar fashion and shows her dislike towards the dress. The persona also uses a firm tone. She employs the use of the second-person point of view and uses the word “you” to show assertiveness. The word “you” also gives the idea that the persona is hoping that the readers are able to relate and apply the ideas presented in their own lives. The persona uses words such as “but you put it on” and “happy” to that no matter how much she disliked the dress and was reluctant to wear it, she eventually did in order to make her mother be happy as this is a form of respect and filial piety. The persona’s listing of verbs such as “birthed”, “clothed” and “owned” shows that her mother had to contribute and sacrifice a lot in order to let the persona be able to live the life she has now. As such, the persona constantly respects listens to her mother’s instructions even through they may not see eye to eye all the time as this is a form to making up to her mother for all she has done for her daughter. The main idea presented is that we, children of the world, should respect our parents no matter how different our views and thinking may be as after all, they are the ones who gave us life.

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  14. “New Year’s Dress” is written from the perspective of a duteous daughter who neither likes nor dislikes the dress her mother has bought for her. The fact that the poem employ the second-person point of view, ‘you’, is to highlight how the persona wishes that things are not the way they are or that she is not caught up in the situation as she is as she desires to not just simply be passive and comply. While the persona’s tone is that of indignance, her mother’s tone is commanding as emphasised in the imperative ‘must’ as she instructed her daughter to ‘wear [the dress] on the first day’. Albeit the persona may dislike being directed around, she, in hopes of playing the role of a filial daughter, has the obligation to comply to her mother’s wishes. The pauses in the group of three, ‘birthed you, clothed you, owned you’,with increasing level of control, is to highlight the amount of control her mother has of her, whether or not intentional and the persona’s bitterness. The persona is described to be ‘like the dress’ and this idea further strengthens the idea the persona feels as though she is an item to be possessed and manipulated.

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  15. The author feels that putting on a dress is a symbol of a mother’s love for a child. The author employs the use of a second person point of view as she refuses to admit the fact that she has to compel to her mother’s orders despite being against her own desires and has a solemn tone. The author uses imperatives such as ‘must’ or ‘never’ in order to emphasize the absolute importance of such a dress, that there is no replaceable option, showing her assertive tone. She feels obliged to act on whatever her mother demands. From lines 1 to 5, it is obvious that the poet has a strong dislike for the dress as evident from ‘ you’ll never buy anything like that’, however in the remaining lines, the subject is focused on the mother instead, how you can make her ‘happy, radiant’, thus showing how she has to go against her desires as seen from ‘but you put it on’ in order to fulfill her mother’s own desires. The repetition of  pauses after the word ’you’ is used in order to constantly emphasize on the reader the symbolic representation of a mother’s love towards them from the dress itself, how they are both providing for you, however it can also have its compromises. This conveys the traditional belief of filial piety in Asian households, how it is one’s duty to serve the mother who has raised you up as a result of gratitude towards them.

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  16. The persona seems to be a young woman who has just received a new year dress passed down from her mother and is talking about her dress and the societal pressures that she has to conform to.
    The persona is the daughter herself and overall, she experiences a subtle notion of being forced by her mother and society to wear that dress, but is also conflicted by her filial piety to her mother and follow her instructions. A possible reason for the use of a second person point of view might be due to the poet wanting the reader to experience her anger and thought processes as though he/she is the persona. The poet might also want to express a certain degree of intimacy, which in turn, makes the poet seem truthful in her words and feelings when she says ” you’ll never buy anything like that” and “so that she’ll be happy”. The persona admires and feels a sense of pride in her dress but she is unhappy about the need to wear it. The persona’s tone from lines 1 to 9 show her discomfort and unhappiness at her mother for forcing her to wear the dress on the first day of Chinese New Year. She used commanding words like “instruction”, “you” and “ must” to describe her mother’s assertiveness to her. The inner conflict experienced by the persona can be seen from “You’ll never buy anything like that, but you put it on, so that she’ll be happy.” This shows the persona’s absolute disgust for the dress but still puts it on to please her mother. The poet’s repetition of “you”, which means the persona herself, exemplifies the unwillingness of the persona as she keeps thinking of herself. The persona’s longstanding distaste for the dress and her subsequent giving in to her mother’s request to wear it on the first day of the Chinese New Year clearly shows her adherence to her mother’s wishes. The scenario displayed in this poem is very much in line with the rigidity and conformity expected in asian families.

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  17. The poem portrays the relationship between a parent and a child to be conflicting. The persona is a child and she feels a strong disdain towards the dress, seen through the use of the absolute ‘never’, which places emphasis on her intense aversion towards the dress and makes the persona’s scathing tone more prominent. At the same time, the use of ‘instruction’ as well as the modal verb ‘must’ evokes a sense of resignation, as the persona is forced to wear the dress despite her displeasure and is unable to do anything about it as she has to please her mother and so can only reluctantly accept the dress, which is revealed by the conjunction ‘but’. The second-person point of view gives the poem a more personal tone, allowing the reader to be fully immersed in the persona’s emotions and thus better relate to the poem. The enumeration of the words ‘birthed’, ‘clothed’ and ‘owned’ drive home the sense that the persona is obligated to her mother for bringing her into the world and providing her with clothes. When paired with the repetition of ‘you’ before pauses, which further stresses the weight of her obligation to her mother, the reader is able to feel the persona’s dilemma as she would rather not wear the dress, yet compels herself to wear it due to a personal sense of duty to her mother. Furthermore, the word ‘owned’ suggests that the persona belongs to her mother and owes her existence to her mother, which repeats the idea that she has to repay her mother out of her moral commitment. The persona’s attitude toward the dress shows her struggle between personal will and her duty to fulfil her mother’s wishes. This strengthens the traditional value of filial piety, as the persona bends to her mother’s wishes in spite of her own preferences in order to make her mother happy, just as a child is expected to do.wear the dress, yet compels herself to wear it due to a personal sense of duty to her mother. Furthermore, the word ‘owned’ suggests that the persona belongs to her mother and owes her existence to her mother, which repeats the idea that she has to repay her mother out of her moral commitment. The persona’s attitude toward the dress shows her struggle between personal will and her duty to fulfil her mother’s wishes. This strengthens the traditional value of filial piety and gratefulness to a parent, as the persona is seen bending to her mother’s wishes in order to make her mother happy, as a child is supposed to.

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  18. The poem depicts the dress in a negative light, which parallels how the persona feels towards her mother. The persona critiques the choice of dress with the use of absolutes ‘must’ and ‘never’, which reveals the restriction she has regarding the choice of dress and the difference in opinions of her and her mother. The use of the second person point of view ‘you’, helps the poem to start off on a more personal note, so that readers can relate to the persona’s helplessness and lack of self identity, hence evoking sympathy out of the readers. The repetition of the pronoun ‘you’ is an assertion of self, whereby the persona longs for freedom and independence. The objectification of the persona as the dress, as seen from how she is ‘like the dress’, coupled with the use of the verbs ‘birthed’, ‘clothed’ and ‘owned’ reveals the persona’s inferior standing as compared to her mother, and the struggle of freedom the persona faces. Hence, the strained relationship between the persona and her mother can be seen from the the persona’s defiance towards her mother’s over protectiveness and possessiveness as well as the lack of understanding, communication and compromisation between the two.

    However, despite this, the persona does have a soft spot for her mother, as seen from her compliance later on when she ‘(puts) it on’, which reveals the respect she bears for her mother. There is also the desire of the persona to fulfill her mother’s wishes, so that her mother will be ‘happy,/ radiant’, revealing the filial side of the persona, whereby she tries to repay all that her mother has done for her. The cumulation of the verbs ‘birthed’, ‘clothed’ and ‘owned’ also reveals the persona’s knowledge of the large extent of her mother’s care for her, and highlights the gratitude she feels towards her mother, which in turn resulted in her obedience.

    In conclusion,the relationship between the persona and her mother is intricately complicated.

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  19. The poem portrays the relationship between a parent and a child to be conflicting. The persona is a child and she feels a strong disdain towards the dress, seen through the use of the absolute ‘never’, which places emphasis on her intense aversion towards the dress and makes the persona’s scathing tone more prominent. At the same time, the use of ‘instruction’ as well as the modal verb ‘must’ evokes a sense of resignation, as the persona is forced to wear the dress despite her displeasure and is unable to do anything about it as she has to please her mother and so can only reluctantly accept the dress, which is revealed by the conjunction ‘but’. The second-person point of view gives the poem a more personal tone, allowing the reader to be fully immersed in the persona’s emotions and thus better relate to the poem. The enumeration of the words ‘birthed’, ‘clothed’ and ‘owned’ drive home the sense that the persona is obligated to her mother for bringing her into the world and providing her with clothes. When paired with the repetition of ‘you’ before pauses, which further stresses the weight of her obligation to her mother, the reader is able to feel the persona’s dilemma as she would rather not wear the dress, yet compels herself to wear it due to a personal sense of duty to her mother. Furthermore, the word ‘owned’ suggests that the persona belongs to her mother and owes her existence to her mother, which repeats the idea that she has to repay her mother out of her moral commitment. The persona’s attitude toward the dress shows her struggle between personal will and her duty to fulfil her mother’s wishes. The dress also serves as a physical reminder of the persona’s duty to her mother, especially in the last line of the poem, where the persona lists the dress as if she has to repay her mother for giving her the dress. The poem thus encapsulates the tension between the persona and her mother, and the repression of her free will by her responsibility to please and repay her mother.

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  20. The persona in the poem is the daughter. In the poem, she is written to be reluctant about wearing the dress, yet she feels contented from her mother’s pride and care about her.
    The poem directly addresses the reader by using “you” repeatedly in the poem. This creates an effect where the reader is put into the situation of the poem, to be able to feel what the daughter is feeling. The poet does this in order to make the poem more personal to the reader, and hopefully allow them to relate to her feelings in the poem, causing them to empathise with the persona. The persona in the poem feels negatively towards the dress presented to her, even with a hint of disgust, as seen by her tone in the poem. The poem uses strong words such as ‘You’ll never’, suggesting her strong distaste and firmness in terms of the dress. The poem also uses words as ‘instruction’,‘but’ and ‘so that she’ll be happy’, showing that she did not have a choice in choosing to wear the dress, showing her strong dislike towards it. The poem however, has a change in tone after the eighth line, from a personal dislike from the dress to a more warm and contented tone in describing her mother. The persona describes her mother to have ‘birthed’, ‘clothed’, and ‘owned’ her. These words have a motherly and caring meaning around them, forming a picture of a warm and nurturing figure of the persona’s mother. The poem also uses “radiant” and “happy” in describing her mother’s attitude towards her, creating a sense of contentment derived from her mother’s pride of her. The persona also seems to gain a sense of satisfaction from pleasing her mother. The repetition of ‘you’ in the poem directs these feelings towards the reader, causing them to reflect upon their own mother, and in a way, trying to describe their own mother’s actions towards them. It forms a commanding tone too, where the the poet repeatedly addresses the reader, with “birthed you, clothed you, and owned you’ pointing towards the reader’s personal experience. (Why) This might be supposed to make the reader feel obliged to be grateful towards their mother.
    In the 1-5 line, the poem uses enjambment to describe the daughters feelings towards the dress. Run on lines such as “A dress is not just a dress when your mother gives it to you with the instruction that you must wear it on the first day of Chinese New Year.” has been broken up into 5 lines. This lengthened sentence creates a long and drawn out feeling throughout the first stanza, which corresponds to the daughter’s feeling of reluctance and towards the dress. After lines 1-5, the poem changes structure and starts using end-stopped lines. “You’ll never buy anything like that” is the first line of the second stanza, creating an air of importance around the daughter’s declaration, bolding out the daughter’s disgust and dislike towards the dress. The line then ends here, creating a quick pause before starting with “but” on the next line. This placed a significant impact on the word, indicating a change in tone. The poem then continues to use many end stopped lines, such as, “she birthed you, clothed you, owned you.” The quick ending lines used here entails a level of emotions coming from the daughter, through the short sentences and constant addressing towards the reader. These short lines also help to emphasize the words used in the poem, and in these case, are warm verbs towards the daughter’s mother, helping to build up a effect where the daughter’s positive feelings towards her mother become more evident. Through this, we can feel the daughter’s own contentment coming from the pride shown by her mother.
    In conclusion, I feel that the daughter’s feelings and attitude towards her new years dress can be applied to her feelings towards her own mother. In the poem, she starts off with a reluctant and exasperated feeling towards the dress, even displaying strong themes of dislike throughout the stanza. However, in the second stanza, these feelings transform into ones more of satisfaction, contentment and gratitude. Similarly, I think that these feelings can be translated towards her mother. While the daughter starts off reluctant and exasperated towards her mother’s forced decisions onto her, she still feels a certain sense of gratification and satisfaction from being able to provide joy and pride for her mother. These feelings do show the daughter’s love towards her mother.

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