poetry analysis conjoined vs most like an arch this marriage

Poetry Analysis: “Conjoined” versus “Most Like an Arch This Marriage”

People often dream of finding the perfect soul mate…a special someone with similar hopes and goals for their future. They dream of someone to share the good and bad times with them. They dream of a person that will love them unconditionally until death parts them. And although I seriously doubt anyone has ever said the sacred marriage vows to another while believing the union would not last forever, the high divorce rate shows that more and more, marriages are failing and separation is highly probable. It’s not clear why some marriages are successful and why some fail, but after reading the two poems, “Most Like an Arch This Marriage” and “Conjoined”, it’s crystal clear to me that marriage can indeed be either dream come true, or a living nightmare. In fact, it’s also quite possible for one partner to be happy in a marriage and the other one to be completely miserable. In this analysis, I plan on comparing the two poems, their similarities as well as their differences and how the poets used various writing techniques to illustrate their ideas on the marriage theme they have written about. In “Most Like an Arch This Marriage”, poet John Ciardi uses symbolism, similes, metaphors, and imagery when comparing his marriage to an arch. The theme illustrates that marriage can be an ideal, happy, blissful union.

Ciardi shows how he and his spouse are “two weaknesses that lean into a strength” (5), and how, when partners act alone, “what’s strong and separate falters” (10). When first reading “Most Like an Arch This Marriage”, I truly didn’t understand most of the meanings behind the similes and metaphors and therefore I really wasn’t as captivated as I am now that I have researched how arches are successfully constructed. The poem is beautifully written, where I felt a strong sense of commitment from the author that gave a happy and secure tone to the poem. The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines an arch as: a usually curved part of a structure that is over an opening and that supports a wall or other weight above the opening. After careful review of arches, I’ve found that they are always built on a firm foundation and that the opening under the arch symbolizes some type of entrance, but almost always, the arch symbolizes a union…and the hope of things to come. As far as marriages are concerned, for many years, couples used wedding cake
toppers that had a bride and groom, often standing under an archway. Today, many couples stand under decorative archways when they are taking their vows, or lighting a unity candle. In “Most Like an Arch”, Ciardi is using the simile of “most like an arch-an entrance which upholds” (1) to symbolize the couple entering into the sacred union of marriage, where he believes that “inside half –heaven unfolds” (4). When speaking of Heaven, I believe he is using a metaphor to compare Heaven to a marriage and that he must consider the union as perfect. He later uses the simile of “most like an arch-two weaknesses that lean” (5) to show that “two fallings become firm” (6). It’s apparent that his take on marriage is without a doubt the same as discussed in The Bible, where it is stated that “the two shall become one flesh” and that the union is forever (Revised Standard Version. Matthew 19.5). He makes it obvious for a simple reader like me to realize that marriage is a balancing act, where two must work together, leaning on each other through the good and bad times. Otherwise, the couple becomes two again…weak…and unable to stand.

Sadly, when studying “Conjoined”, you quickly realize that poet Judith Minty has an opposing view of Ciardi’s sacred union. She writes about a terrible marriage where at least one of the partners is unhappy and she uses similes, metaphors, and strong imagery to show that marriage can indeed be hell on earth. “Conjoined” has a negative tone, stating that the partnership is “doomed” (Minty 8). And Minty suggests that at least one of them feels they are trapped, and that they “cannot escape each other” (15). Considering the fact that Minty uses metaphors of comparing a marriage to an onion and monster (1) and to an accident (5), I think it’s clear that she believes being with the wrong partner can be toxic. Could anything be worse than comparing a marriage to an onion…the one food that everyone can agree on stinking? Or how about a monster? As kids, we grow up trying to keep them out from under our beds and we are constantly scared of them getting to us and causing us harm. The same could be said about her next comparison, the accident. I’ve never heard of a good accident. Trouble almost always follows an accident, why would anyone want to compare their marriage to one? It’s just not clear what happened that changed her heart towards her spouse, but something surely did, as she uses some pretty depressing similes throughout the poem as well. The “two headed calf” (Minty 5), and Siamese twins, “Chang and Eng” (Minty 7) both bring negative images to mind as the calf and twins are both freak acts of nature.

They are hopelessly bound together…sharing one body. They cannot make it on their own, and, yet, they often suck the life right out of the other one. She makes it obvious that she feels like she is in this marriage until death, but sadly, the death is happening emotionally and not by a physical nature. Not only that, Minty feels as if she has to fake being happy and continue on in the marriage in order to do protect her husband because “to sever the muscle could free one/ but might kill the other” (12-13). I can think of nothing worse than feeling trapped with someone and feeling I had to stay that way until my death. It pained me to have to read the poem over and over in order to properly analyze it. As I said earlier, I seriously doubt that anyone ever enters into marriage believing it will not last forever. But after reading both of these poems, I’m convinced that in order to have a lasting relationship, a couple must first build a firm foundation of trust, commitment, and mutual respect. If you always stand together… I don’t believe you will ever be weak! The strength comes from unconditionally loving each other. Unfortunately, most people cannot do that and one is always a little more invested in the relationship than the other. In a perfect world, all marriages would be like the fairytale written about in “Most Like an Arch”…but reality sets in, people change, and sadly, there are too many marriages that end up like the living hell nightmare in “Conjoined”. Learning how to grow together, lean on each other for support, and making it through the bad times isn’t always easy. But mastering the ability to trust and support each other can lead to the ultimate marriage where both partners are happy and stronger than they ever were when apart. That’s the marriage I want!

Works Cited
“Arch.” Def 1. Webster’s English Dictionary. 5th ed. 2009. Print. The Holy Bible. Revised Standard Version. New York: T. Nelson, 1952. Print. Ciardi, John. “Most Like an Arch This Marriage.” The Poetry Foundation. Web. 21 Sept. 2013. Minty, Judith. “Conjoined.” Paul’s Homepage Portfolio. BlogSpot, 29 Apr 2006. Web. 22 Sept. 2013.

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