Looking In At Night Analysis

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In “Looking in at Night,” Mary Kinzie composes a villanelle with palpable tension, playing with the push-pull of a set rhyming structure and a loose, forgiving metrical line. The balance between the formal and the figurative allows the speaker’s anxieties about death to both expand and contract, ending in a final quatrain that suggests resolution and acceptance. Written in a regular ABA rhyme scheme, the first five tercets explore the speaker as she or he hints that “Night,” while personified, may suggest a person to whom the speaker is close (a mother? daughter? the aging self? the passage of time as we age, drawing closer to death with each minute?). This structure suggests a formal relationship (“her shape makes me afraid,”) between speaker and subject; and, packed with relentless alliteration and assonance (“asleep,” “alive,” “afraid,” and “shape,” “makes,” “afraid,”), the speaker takes great care in observing every breath and “curl of light” on the subject. The alliteration and assonance soften the tight form of the regular villanelle structure, allowing the speaker to revere the subject with phrases “she is like a statue” and “around her head like waves of braid,/ Suggesting hair in an archaic style.” The speaker has a deep love for the subject, and the interplay of…show more content…
Ultimately the speaker’s view of the subject moves from a state of anxiety or being “afraid”of the subject’s death into a sort of acceptance as even the subject becomes “unafraid,” letting the speaker breathe a little and take comfort as she/he observes the subject coming to terms with death. What was once “asleep-alive” becomes “alive in sleep,” an acknowledgement of what is to come. The night “draws” up and over the shoulder, as if a blanket, comforting and embracing the subject with a final
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