The Day The Lady Died Poem Analysis

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Most elegies put their focus on the departed subject of the poem--and for good reason. One of the main purposes of an elegy is to remember and celebrate the life of the individual that has passed on. But the narrative O’Hara’s poem “The Day the Lady Died” doesn’t put most of its focus on the departed, but rather follows the day-to-day activities of the speaker before he discovers that Billie Holiday has died. This narrative isn’t used to diminish the importance of Holiday, however. Instead, it is used to show the nature of mortality in regard to how the world continues on normally even after the death of a celebrity. But rather than saying this means that Holiday’s life was unimportant, the fleeting nature of mortality shows how important Holiday was to some people, and how she touched their lives even in small ways. “The Day the Lady Died” is not a grand celebration of an individual, but rather a celebration of how one individual affected those around her in small ways. The majority…show more content…
The ending of the poem shows the speaker ruminating on what the death of Holiday personally means to him. Instead of realizing that she contributed nothing of significance to his life, he recalls a time when he saw her perform: “thinking of/leaning on the john door in the 5 SPOT/while she whispered a song along the keyboard.” The speaker first heard Holiday in a mundane spot--near a bathroom door--just as he discovered her death in a mundane manner. She made enough of an impact on the speaker that he does not simply note her death and go on with the rest of his day. Rather, he stops in his tracks and suddenly remembers a place usually associated undesirable connotations as something special, because that is where he first heard Holiday sing. The speaker further cements this by ending the poem saying, “everyone and I stopped breathing” when they heard Holiday
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