The Laughing Heart

The Laughing Heart

By Charles Bukowski

Your life is your life
Don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.
Be on the watch.
There are ways out.
There is a light somewhere.
It may not be much light but
It beats the darkness.
Be on the watch.
The gods will offer you chances.
Know them.
Take them.
You can’t beat death but
You can beat death in life, sometimes.
And the more often you learn to do it,
The more light there will be.
Your life is your life.
Know it while you have it.
You are marvelous
The gods wait to delight
In you.

Summary of The Laughing Heart

  • Popularity of “The Laughing Heart”: Written by Charles Bukowski, an American writer, poet, short story writer, and novelist, the poem “The Laughing Heart” first appeared in 1992. It was included in his collection, The Last of the Earth: Poems. The poet has used very short verses and crisp and straightforward language to bring home his readers to know that their lives belong to them and that they should live them on their own terms. The popularity of the poem lies in this assertion of having one’s own life.
  • “The Laughing Heart” As a Representative of Life’s Ownership: This beautiful poem, having the poet himself as a speaker, advises the readers that life belongs to them and that they are the sole owners of their lives. Therefore, they should provide others chances to be the drivers of their lives. This rebellious tone that he spells out in the very first verse continues until the last verse of the poem. Its positivity also shows that the poet wants his readers to be on the alert to become more optimistic about divine support and divine help in winning one’s freedom. There is, in fact, an encouragement from the poet that a person should become aware of his worth and strive to live an independent and happy life.
  • Major Themes in “The Laughing Heart”: The poem highlights the main strains of self-determination, hope, destiny, and individuality. Although the poet wants the readers not to permit anybody to club them into “submission,” the poet wants his readers to take charge of their own lives. He is of the view that everybody has the right to self-determination and that nobody else should take charge of the lives of others. It happens in the lives during slavery that people do not see any hope, the poet encourages such souls to see the light somewhere and become optimistic but at the same time urges them to take destiny into their own hands and assert their individuality as “Your life is your life.” It is at this point that gods become happy and become ready to help such persons.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in The Laughing Heart

Charles Bukowski’s use of various literary devices to enhance the intended impact of his poem is superb. Some of the major literary devices are as follows.

  1. Allusion: It means to use references from society, history, or culture to stress upon the main idea. The reference to “the gods” alludes to the idea of fate and destiny and the belief that there are greater powers at work in the universe.
  2. Apostrophe: This literary device shows the use of a call to some dead person or some abstract idea. The direct address to the reader as “you” and the use of the phrase “You are marvelous” creates a sense of intimacy and personal connection.
  3. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /i/ in “Your life is your life” and the sound of /a/ and /o/ in “Don’t let it be clubbed into dank submission.”
  4. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line, such as the sound of /r/ and /f/ in “Your life is your life” and the sound of /m/ and /l/ in “It may not be much light but.”
  5. Hyperbole: It means to exaggerate things for impact. The use of the phrase “The gods wait to delight/ In you” is a hyperbolic statement that emphasizes the value and potential of the individual.
  6. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. Charles Bukowski used imagery in this poem, such as “Though fallen thyself, never to rise again”, “Live, and take comfort. Thou hast left behind” and “Powers that will work for thee; air, earth, and skies”
  7. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between objects that are different in nature. The metaphor of life being “clubbed into dank submission” suggests a sense of oppression or confinement and the need to break free from it.
  8. Paradox: It means presenting a contradictory statement with some food for thought. The paradoxical statement “You can’t beat death, but you can beat death in life” is thought-provoking and encourages the reader to reflect on the meaning of life and death.
  9. 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 life, watch, light, and darkness to show the importance of life.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in The Laughing Heart

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 formal, poetic, and melodic diction.
  2. Free Verse: It means to use poetry without any limitation of rhyme or meter. Therefore, this is a free-verse poem.
  3. Repetition: Repetition means to repeat certain words or phrases for impact. The repetition of the phrase “Your life is your life” reinforces the central message of the poem.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. This is a single-stanza poem having 20 verses.
  5. Tone: It means the voice of the text. The poem shows an imperative and assertive tone.

Quotes to be Used

The following lines are useful to quote when motivating a team.

Your life is your life.
Know it while you have it.
You are marvelous
The gods wait to delight
In you.

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