A Story- Li-Young Lee

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by justbeingjess
Last updated 7 years ago

Language Arts

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A Story- Li-Young Lee

No bond is stronger than the bond between a parent and child. Though the poem is specifically about the realationship of the father and son, the poem its self is written in a general and relatable form. The obstacles that this father and son go through may not be the same ones other people go through, but the situations of growing up and the pain of saying goodbye are normal and can happen to anyone.

The italicized words are the father's thoughts. The poet goes back and forth into reality and fantasy. In the first stanza, the father is asked for a story, in the second stanza the son is quoted (italicized), "Not the same story, Baba. A new one."(2). Even though the boy is the one saying that line, it is really the father who thinks he hears his son asking that. The simple request for a story is over processed by the father, which then has him thinking about his son leaving. The poet provides us with the fathers thoughts to see the constant worry he has for his son.

Li-Young Lee

P em rep rt

"A Story"

Poem Summary

Li-Young Lee was born 1957 in Jakarta, Indonesia to Chinese political exiles. Both of Lee’s parents came from powerful Chinese families. His grandfather was the first president of the Republic of China, and Lee’s father was the personal physician to Mao Tse-tsung. Anti-Chinese sentiment began to foment in Indonesia and Dr. Lee was arrested for a year. Once he was released, the family fled the country to escape anti-chinese sentiment. They traveled through Hong Kong, Macau and Japan before immigrating to the United States in 1964. He's held teaching positions at Northwestern University and the University of Iowa.In 1986, Lee published his first book of poetry. He is currently living in Chicago Illinois with his wife, Donna, and their two sons.

The poem "A Story" by Li-Young Lee is about a man who's sitting with his five year old son, thinking of a story to tell. The poet describes this by using imagery,"The man rubs his chin, screatches his ears."(2). When he can't think of any story, he thinks his son will give up on him. The poem is a free- verse poem with a huge change in the fourth stanza. The father thinks about the future and imagines his son packing his clothes and looking for his keys. He gets angry and screams, "Are you a god that I sit mute in front of you and never disappoint?"(4). By the last stanza the father goes back to the present and realizes his son is still sitting in front of him, asking for a story. His mind goes blank when his son asks for a story because he's overwhelmed with the thought that he might disappoint his son.

About the Poet

Jessica & Sumaiya

Feb. 10, 2014

The poet starts off the poem with the son asking to hear a story, and also ends the poem with the son still wanting to hear a story. The repetition of this idea is to show the shift of his son staying with him and then leaving him, but in reality his son is still there.

How does repetition add to the poetry and effect the tone?

The shift between the present and the future is used to express the poet's true feelings of how he doesn't want his son to leave him. In the poem, the poet introduces us to a boy sitting on his father's lap asking for a story. While the father struggles coming up with a story, he envisions his son all grown up, packed and heading for the door.

How is the poem enchanced by the italicized first person voice?

In the poem, the father compares his son to a god, "Are you a god, that I sit mute before you?"(5). At this time, the boy is already a young man, and perhaps his father feels his son thinks he is above him. As of being god he wouldn't have time for the mere subjects below him (father). The poet also compares the father to a god, "Am I a god that I should never disappoint?"(5). He does this to show how with being god, he should be all mighty and be able to provide anything, yet he is still uncapable of granting his son's wish.

The speaker refers to a god in the poem. What is the significance of this comparision?

What is the significance to you, the world, or the human condition in general?

The poem shifts back and forth between the present and the future. Why are the shifts necessary?


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