This article, Making a Fist Analysis, intends to provide deep insight into Naomi Shihab Nye’s famous poem. Naomi Shihab Nye is renowned for describing local lives and ordinary subjects in her poems. Following the same, she opted for a positive gesture as a subject of this poem to explain how it relates to strength and bravery. Making a Fist” is a simple poem that centers on a courageous, optimistic mother and curious daughter. The poem begins when the speaker is traveling in a car on the Tampico road, probably the border separating the UN and Mexico.

The child in the poem is getting sick and is on the verge of death as she says that, for the first time, she realizes life is passing her quickly. She fails to hear the drumbeat clearly, probably because of the illness. The seven-year-old, sick girl also notices the reflection of palm trees on her window’s glass. Finally, the innocent girl asks a meaningful question about death to break the silence. She wonders how one can know that the end of life is approaching. To satisfy her nerve, she asks her mother how you know if you are going to die. Instead of creating stories, the mother gives her strength by providing a decisive answer.

To her, when someone fails to make a fist, he is approaching death. Despite knowing that her daughter is fighting with misery, the mother seems confident about her daughter’s bright future. The last stanza shifts the narrative; the reader returns to reality, where the same child is now grown up. She is sitting in the car with her head full of unanswered questions. However, even after years of this meaningful journey, she still practices making fists just to check her courage and strength.

Major Themes in “Making a Fist”

“Making a Fist” carries various themes, such as death, the fragility of life, and courage. The child’s journey in the poem is symbolic; it shows that life never stops no matter what happens. Her illness stands for the remainder of our destined future: sooner or later, we all are going to face death. However, the mother’s character holds utmost value in the poem as she comes up with a strange yet meaningful definition of life.

The gesture she highlights shows strength and courage. It tells how one should face troubles in life. Despite knowing that her daughter is dangling between life and death, she does not lose hope. Instead of crying in adversity, she keeps her morale high. Also, she taught the same lesson to her daughter. To her, life does not end following illness or other troubles. It instead ends when we stop dreaming when we stop believing.

Toward the end of the poem, the speaker describes how, although the horrific time of her illness passed, the lesson she learned became a constant part of her life. Even after years of that journey, she still tests her courage while making a fist. Through this simple poem, the writer delivers a strong message that hope can restore lost courage. Therefore, one should never give up on anything.

Techniques Used in “Making a Fist”

Naomi Shihab Nye has used many literary and poetic devices in her poems to connect her readers with her unique ideas and feelings. The devices used in the poem are given below.

  1. Assonance: A literary device in which vowel sounds are repeated in a sentence, such as; “north of Tampico” and “split wide inside.” The sounds of /i/ and /o/ are repeated in the given verses.
  2. Consonance: It is also a literary device in which consonant sounds are repeated in a verse or sentence, e.g., “did not die” and “backseat behind.” The repetition of /b/ and /d/ shows the occurrence of consonant sounds in quick possession.
  3. Imagery: Imagery is used by poets and writers to create mental images in the audience’s mind. Naomi has used this device effectively in the poem, such as; “our unanswerable woes” and “inside my skin.”
  4. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to lifeless objects. The writer has cleverly inserted this device in the second line of the poem, saying life was sliding out of her.
  5. Metaphor: The writer has used the extended metaphor of death in this poem to show how it cast a single shadow on our lives.
  6. Symbolism: Symbolism uses signs and symbols to create deeper meanings in the poem. Naomi has used various characters to connect the readers to her ideas. For instance, “journey” stands for struggle, “fist “symbolizes strength and “unanswered questions” stand for unfulfilled desires.
  7. Stanza: Stanza is a poem’s division into two or more lines that work as a single unit. There are three stanzas in this poem; each stanza varies in form and length.