Mock Orange

Mock Orange

By Louise Gluck

It is not the moon, I tell you.
It is these flowers
lighting the yard.

I hate them.
I hate them as I hate sex,
the man’s mouth
sealing my mouth, the man’s
paralyzing body—

and the cry that always escapes,
the low, humiliating
premise of union—

In my mind tonight
I hear the question and pursuing answer
fused in one sound
that mounts and mounts and then
is split into the old selves,
the tired antagonisms. Do you see?
We were made fools of.
And the scent of mock orange
drifts through the window.

How can I rest?
How can I be content
when there is still
that odor in the world?

Summary of Mock Orange

  • Popularity of “Mock Orange”: Written by a well-known American poet of Hungarian origin, Louise Gluck, this poem first appeared in 1985. She published it in her collection, The Triumph of Achilles. The poem presents the hidden antagonism that exists in heterosexuality. However, it is the presentation of her own antagonism that matters the most here. That is why the poem has won popularity across the world.
  • “Mock Orange” As a Representative of Heterosexuality and Its Anathema: The poet, who happens to be the speaker of the poem, states that she sees the light not due to the moon but due to the flowers that are in the yard. However, this attraction to flowers leads her to express her hatred for sex, the very act of sexing, embracing with man, and the humiliation of enjoying it. She takes this very act as an insult and humiliation of a woman as she goes on to state that she thinks about these questions, and the answers confuse her mental capacity until she reaches the stage of demonstrating the antagonist of the opposite gender. She states that they, women, have been made a fool in the name of unions as she cannot rest until this smell or scent of fakeness evaporates from her life.
  • Major Themes in “Mock Orange”: Hatred for sex, mild antagonism against patriarchy, and mocking feminine qualities are major themes of this poem. Although the poet starts with a unique title, it matches her theme that, like the pretension of love in conjugal life, mock oranges also give off a mock smell. The same goes for this relationship in which intimacy seems insulting to her, and she experiences rather mild antagonism for the opposite sex. However, it also seems that for her, it is a humiliating experience and yet she cannot get rid of it; she is rather mocking her feminine quality. This is a norm of heterosexuality that she does not like in her, which leads her to question how she tolerates it.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in Mock Orange

Louise Gluck used various literary devices to enhance the intended impact of her poem. Some of the major literary devices have been analyzed below.

  1. Alliteration: It means to use initial consonants in successive words. The poem shows the use of consonant sounds, such as /m/ in “man’s mouth” and the same again in “my mouth.”
  2. Anaphora: It means to use words or phrases repeatedly in consecutive verses. The poem shows the use of anaphora, such as in the first two verses “It is” and in the last stanza as “How can.”
  3. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /i/ in “In my mind tonight” and the sound of /e/ and /o/ in “It is not the moon, I tell you.”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /m/ and /n/ in “that mounts and mounts and then” and the sound of /f/ and /w/ in “We were made fools of.”
  5. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “It is these flowers”, “and the cry that always escapes” and “I hear the question and pursuing answer”
  6. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects that are different in nature. The poet used the metaphor of a cry that has been posed as a prisoner that escapes.
  7. Rhetorical Question: It means to show or use a question not to elicit an answer but to tress upon the main theme. The poem shows the use of rhetorical questions such as “Do you see?” or “How can I rest?” and “When there is still / that odor in the world?”
  8. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from the literal meanings. The poem shows symbols such as the moon, flowers, sex, and crying to show the oppression of loveless conjugal life.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in Mock Orange

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

  1. Diction: It means the type of language. The poem shows good use of poetic diction.
  2. Free Verse: It means to use verses without any rhyme scheme or metrical pattern. This is a free-verse poem.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are five stanzas without a regular verse pattern, and each has a different number of verses.
  4. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows an oppressive as well as depressive tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote when talking about some evil and fighting against it.

How can I rest?
How can I be content
when there is still
that odor in the world?