The Black Walnut Tree Mary Oliver Analysis

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All families have hardships they face in times of despair, and through those hardships, families become stronger. In Mary Oliver’s poem “The Black Walnut Tree,” a woman and her mother debate back and forth about the state of their beloved walnut tree; in reality, Mary Oliver actually opens commentary on how families become connected even further once they go through a difficult time together. Her use of figurative language creates an extended symbol through the entire poem, depicted the tree as the strength of their familial ties even through rough times, like poverty. Oliver’s use of poetic techniques in “The Black Walnut Tree” helps paint a picture of the tree as a symbol for familial strength, especially when the family goes through a depressing…show more content…
The narrator and her mother find themselves in a poor place financially, as depicted through the fact that they have to “…pay off the mortgage” and that they must find a reason that is “brighter than money” in order to keep the tree around (lines 5, 16). If the narrator’s family were to sell the tree to the lumbermen, they would end up in a financially comfortable position, which they prefer to their current, money-less situation. Using the word “churn” in line 8, Oliver suggests the trees downfall in a storm would incessantly batter the house, similar to how a person would churn butter from milk. Churn in and of itself creates an unpleasant, chunky image that could be associated to the poor relations held within a broken family, where any sort of conglomeration of members turns out better than the family separated into pieces. These two women continue to “talk slowly/…trying in a difficult time to be wise,” so they each come up with their own excuses on why throwing the tree, the family, out would make the most sense (lines 8, 9, 10). Fearing more damage to the house, the facade a family puts up to tell society they do not have trouble, the narrator mentions the “Roots in the cellar drains”; meanwhile, the mother of the narrator
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