Usman hearing the difference between two words



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24th, 2018


Li-Young Lee’s “Persimmons,” how does the poem’s use of literal and metaphoric
meanings of “persimmon” help to develop a theme of love?


The poem “Persimmons” by
Li-Young Lee, persimmon is used throughout the entire poem for their symbolic
and metaphoric meaning. The poem starts with the Lee getting in trouble with
the teacher and as his punishment he got slapped in the back of the head and
was put in the corner. In this first stanza we can tell that the author is
looking back to the past, when he first got punished for not hearing the
difference between two words “persimmon” and precision”. This is the first of
many scenes that occur throughout the poem each of these scenes involves some
kind of misconception. These encounters involve at 4 other people, the teacher
and lee’s wife his mother and father. 
The use of the word persimmon, is “the Chinese metaphor for human life:
tasteless and bitter when too young, soft and sweet once mature (Eva).”

In the Poem Lee uses
descriptions of how to cut the perfect persimmon, how to choose, peel and cut
the persimmon, then “eat / the meat of the fruit, / so sweet, / all of it,
to the heart.” In this stanza there is connection that is made to the
heart and the way the fruit is cut in a precise manner, this same pattern can
be seen in his poem when Lee talks about his parents, persimmon being symbolic his
love for his parents and his culture, this develops the theme of love in the
poem. In the following stanza we see that Mrs. Walker brought a persimmon to class
to cut it open, “so everyone could taste a Chinese apple. Knowing it wasn’t ripe or sweet, I didn’t eat but watched the
other faces” this fruit is unknown to Mrs. Walker as she is calling it a
“Chinese apple” it shows her ignorance, it also represents Lee’s Love for his
culture and heritage and to him this is an insult calling it a “Chinese apple”.
To Mrs. Walker “Chinese apple” is nothing more than a mere fruit but to Lee it
represents his culture, and the hidden meaning of persimmon only the few will
understand. The students themselves cannot see the beauty of the persimmon,
besides the sour taste, to them it’s nothing more than a mere fruit, to them
the secret of the persimmons are hidden, so much of the fruit is hidden, that
the real meaning of the persimmon is difficult to find, its as though a veil
separated us, we can see outlines and shapes behind it but not the details but
to Lee it represents the love and the care he received from his parents and
they what makes it special.

 In the Poem there is a deep and meaningful connection
being made, “My mother said every persimmon has sun inside, something golden,
glowing, warm as my face, this stanza in the poem holds a lot of meaning
because in our everyday busy life, we often take for granted what is there for
us, “persimmon” here can used to relate to people, objects, and even time that
we often take for granted, and then once its gone then we realize what we
missed. It also means that instead of being judgmental and superficial we
should look beyond the outward esthetics and rather focus on the inside, because
everyone has something special in their hearts, which only requires that you
look inside, this helps to develop the theme of love, because it only requires
you to look inside and appreciate its inner beauty, even for things as simple
as  a “persimmon”, This is also visually
trying to tell the reader what the fruit is like in a descriptive way, so each
person can appreciate the persimmon for what it is. Later in the poem the two
forgotten persimmons, is metaphor for connection and the bonding between father
and son, Lee’s father lost his eye sight but out of Love he manged to make 3


Throughout the poem the
speaker searches for something that is missing in his life. Perhaps it’s the
lost connection to his culture and heritage, which can be seen when he tries to
each Donna some Chinese, perhaps he felt stifled by western culture, this
highly civilized by strangely different culture, it may have begun to Paul
after some time, The fruit of persimmon is metaphor throughout this entire poem
for example “swelled,
heavy as sadness, / and sweet as love.” I think this line best summarizes
the poem, yet the persimmons are swelled with their rich taste, and their
exotic nature. Sweet as Love this refers to the love the speaker received from
his parents, this might sound a bit cliché but no love is greater than a mother
loves no care is greater than a father’s care.



Lee, Li-Young.
“Persimmons.” Rose: Poems. Brockport: BOA Editions, 1986.

From A to Z: 26 Things to Know about Persimmon.” Fine Dining Lovers,




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