Kicking the Habit

Kicking the Habit

By Lawson Fusao Inada

Late last night, I decided to
stop using English.
I had been using it all day –
taking all day,
listening all day,
thinking all day,
reading all day,
remembering all day,
feeling all day,

and even driving all day,
in English –
when finally I decided to

So I pulled off the main highway
onto a dark country road
and kept on going and going
until I emerged in another nation and

There, the insects
inspected my passport, the frogs
investigated my baggage, and the trees
pointed out lights in the sky,

and I, of course, replied.
After all, I was foreigner,
and had to comply…

Now don’t get me wrong.
There’s nothing “wrong”
with English,

and I’m not complaining
about the language
which is my “native tongue”
I make my living with the lingo;
I was even in England, once.

So you might say I’m actually addicted to it;
Yes, I’m an Angloholic,
and I can’t get along without the stuff:
It controls my life.

Until last night, that is.
Yes, I had had it.
with the habit.

I was exhausted,
burned out,
by the habit.
And I decided
to kick the habit
cold turkey
right then and there,
on the spot!

And, in so doing, I kicked
open the door of a cage
and stepped out from confinement
into the greater world.

Tentatively, I uttered.
“Chemawa? Chinook?”
and the pints said
“Clackamas. Siskiyou.”
And before long, everything else,
chimed in with their two cents’ worth
and we had a fluid and fluent
conversation going,
communicating, expressing
echoing, whatever we needed to
know, know, know…
What was it like?
Well, just listen;

Ah, the exquisite seasonings
Of syllables, the consummate consonants, the
vowels of varied vocabularies
clicking, ticking, humming,
growing, throbbing, strumming—
coming from all parts of orifices, surfaces,
in creative combinations, orchestrations,
resonating in rhythm with the atmosphere!

I could have remained there
forever—as I did, and will.
And, when I resumed my way,
My stay could no longer be
As they say
As we say, in English.

For on the road of life,
In the code of life,

There’s much more to green than

for as the yellow
sun cleaning enunciated to me this morning:
“Fusao. Inada.”

Summary of Kicking the Habit

  • Popularity of “Kicking the Habit”: “Kicking the Habit” by Lawson Fusao Inada, a popular Oregonian poet, professor, and writer, is an interesting piece about how to feel giving up one’s habit of speaking mother tongue. The poem first appeared in his collection of poems, Legends from Camp, published in 1971 in the United States. The popularity of the poem lies in its commonplace title but the unusual subject matter.
  • Kicking The Habit” As a Representative of Experiments: Fusao Inada narrates his personal story of resolving to give up his habit of using English in its proper way. Then he goes on to say that he gives up using English altogether including thinking and feeling and decided to stop this habit. Then he goes out to another country and comes across insects and animals who express surprise at his passport having an English script on it. Despite his reply that he is a foreigner, he has to use English. He clarifies, then, that there is nothing wrong in using English that may be incorrect, and to top it all, it is his mother tongue or native tongue. It is his skill using which he earns his livelihood. He has also visited England to learn it better and feels that he has become Angloholic. Yet, he is fed up with the dominance of English in a way that it seems him an anathema. Therefore, he has decided to remove this addiction from his life but he is exhausted like a person does when he does not give up some old habit. Despite this frustration, he tries and comes into the world to leave English behind, and yet what does and says is just in English with all of its specifications such as syllables, wording, and consonances. Finally, he arrives at the conclusion that to lead a life, a person needs a language exactly like the sun that makes you feel that you are “you.”
  • Major Themes in “Kicking the Habit”: Requirement of having a language, linguistic identity, and reality check are three major themes of the poem. Although the poet is fed up with using English and tries to end this, thinking of taking it as a habit, he fails to do so as it is a global lingua franca. Therefore, he feels that it is just like an identity. It is his linguistic identity even if he uses it wrongly. He comes to the point that reality exists in a person’s mind in linguistic forms and it becomes a habit that is hard to give up.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used In “Kicking the Habit”

literary devices make poems impressive in many ways. Inada has also used some literary devices in this poem whose analysis is as follows.

  1. Allusion: It means referring to something, event, person or a figure of historical importance such as English and England in this poem have alluded to several times.
  2. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /o/ in “on the spot or open the door of a cage” the sound of /a/ in “until I emerged in another nation and /stopped” and the sound of /e/ in “right then and there.”
  3. Alliteration: The poem shows the use of alliteration in the shape of initial consonant sounds of the neighboring words such as the sound of /l/ in “late last” and /c/ in “consummate consonants” and another one that is /v/ in “varied vocabularies.”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /s/ and /c/ in “Of syllables, the consummate consonants the / vigorous” and the sound of /v/ and /r/ in “vowels of varied vocabularies” and for that matter of /r/ and /ing/ in “growing, throbbing and strumming.”
  5. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

I could have remained there
forever—as I did, and will.
And, when I resumed my way.

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Lawson Fusao Inada has used imagery in this poem such as;

taking all day,
listening all day,
thinking all day,
reading all day,
remembering all day,
feeling all day.

  1. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different. The poet has used an extended metaphor of English as a way to show that his reality and identity comprise his linguistic ability.
  2. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from literal meanings. The poem shows the use of symbols of such as vowels, consonants, and syllables.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Kicking the Habit”

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Diction and Tone: The poem shows the use of informal and colloquial diction. However, its tone is somewhat ironic and satiric.
  2. Free Verse: The poem does not follow any strict rhyming pattern or stanza form. Therefore, it is a free verse poem.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are no fixed stanzas. The poem comprises three verses and longer and sometimes just a single word in a verse.

Quotes to be Used

These lines from “Kicking the Habit” are appropriate to use when explaining the reality of life.

For on the road of life,
in the code of life,
there’s much more to red than