Native Guard By Natasha Trethewey Analysis

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A Monument to the Dead
Throughout Native Guard by Natasha Trethewey there are themes of death, grief and change. These themes are carried through the collection and are present within the entire collection. These set up the mood that this collection is ultimately about change but change for the reader as well as what happens in the collection. In “Monument” we can see all these changes through a paraphrase of the poem and the sense of elongated time from the from the form and imagery of the poem.
A lot can be said by simplifying down all the imagery and diction into what’s happening in the poem with a short paraphrase. A quick paraphrase of “Monument” is: ants slowly build an ant hill as the narrator watches. Their constant movement reminds
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Ants are representative of many things but a main one is cooperation. It makes sense because they work together to help benefit the whole colony and the colony, as a whole, works cohesively as a unit. All of the ants together, represent a strength and unity that can reshape the world itself. This makes for a strong contrast against the narrator. Throughout the poem she doesn’t really do anything besides watching the ants’ work. She is also visiting her mother’s grave in, what is assumed to be, complete solitude. There are no mentions of others with her or other people present. It just the narrator and the ants. It seems everyone else has moved on, especially since the graveyard is described as being very unkept with “weeds and grass grown up all around” (9). Only the narrator and the ants visit her mother now.
There could be many reasons why the narrator keeps coming back, even after everyone else has let go and adjusted to a new life. The ants help bring this reason to the light. The building of their home across the grave of the narrator’s mother is a “reminder of what I haven’t done” (21-22). There is no clear answer of what the narrator hasn’t done. Maybe she’s being reminded of how she needs to move on since everything else in the world has, or that she just has many regrets that she never cleared
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Even the title is a reference to Trethewey’s mother because Trethewey has stated that “figuratively, the title represents the idea that I am a native guardian to the memory of my mother’s life” (Solomon).
Trethewey had such a deep connection with her mom that she felt that she needed to preserve her in the way she knew how, through poetry. She acts as her mother’s guardian by preserving her mother within her poems. Even if everyone else has moved on in “Monument” the narrator is still there to be her mother’s guardian. Even if the world has stopped caring, the narrator is there to remember everything and maybe that’s where the regret comes from. The narrator may feel that what she “hasn’t done” is act as an adequate guardian, that she hasn’t remembered everything that made her mother the mom she knew and loved.
That doubt could create the wound she talks about in the last line which

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