An Analysis in the poem “The Writer” by Richard Wilbur.
In “The Writer” by Richard Wilbur, the subject is a father-daughter relationship. The theme is about the daughter’s life journey and how the father can only point her in the right direction, but can’t make her decisions for her. Wilbur uses figurative language and images to enhance this poem.
In the poem, the narrator is the father of a girl typing a story. As the father stands outside the shut door of his daughter’s room, listening to her type, he wishes her luck on her journey. Then the daughter suddenly pauses and stops typing; there seems to be a stillness in the house. The father feels the stillness is a rejection of his wish for his daughter’s luck. The daughter starts typing again, only to stop again seconds later. At this point, the narrator remembers how a bird was trapped in the same room in which his daughter is typing in. The father opened a window for the bird to fly to freedom, but had to take himself and his daughter out of the room to keep from frightening the bird. After attempting to get through the right window but striking closed windows, the bird finally finds his way through the right window and flies away.
Richard Wilbur relies heavily on figurative language in three extended metaphors to reveal the theme of the poem. The first extended metaphor is the daughter’s life being compared to a ship’s voyage. Examples of this metaphor are the daughter’s life struggles being compared to “great cargo, and some of it heavy,” (line 8). Also, the father wishes his daughter a “lucky passage” (9), like wishes sent to passengers on a ship about to set sail. These expressions show how a journey at sea is like the journey through life. Another extended metaphor is when the daughter is writing a story. “Like a chain hauled over a gunwale” (6) refers to the sound of the daughter typing, but also relates to a ship about to set sail. The daughter’s sounds of typing represents her about to leave, because the ship would be lifting it’s anchor to set off. By the end of the poem, it’s apparent that she’s writing her own life story, which is an extended metaphor since the poem is titled “The Writer.” Also, the continuous pausing of the daughter’s typing shows that she has struggles and stopping points in her life, just like she’s having struggles writing some parts of the story. The last extended metaphor is the father remembering the starling and comparing it to his daughter. The father could only open the window for the bird and step away as he could only lead his child to the right path and hope she finds her way.
Another important element Wilbur uses is imagery. The first image that is apparent is the “window tossed with linden,” (line 2) which shows trees against the window, looking like the tossing waves of the sea. The waves are similar to the ups and downs of the daughter’s life journey. The next image is the shut door between the father and the daughter typing. The father can’t barge in the room and write the story for his daughter; she has to do it herself. The father also feels shut out of his daughter’s life. The strongest images in the whole poem are those of the starling. The bird tries over and over again to get through the open window, like the daughter trying to get through life. The open window is like one of the many opportunities in the world.
Wilbur tells the theme connecting figurative language and imagery in a way that makes everything fit together perfectly. The father who shows his daughter the right path can only hope for the best as the daughter makes her own decisions. The poem comes to an end as the father realizes there’s nothing more he can do to help his daughter, and he wishes her a lucky passage, “but harder” (33).