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In the poem “My Grandmother’s Love Letters” by Hart Crane, the subject is his beloved grandmother, Elizabeth. The main theme of this poem is the distinction that exists between different generations and the lack of connection. This poem highlights the misunderstanding that often characterizes family relationships. Crane was a child of divorced parents. He did not understand his parents and neither did they understand him. After they disagreed, separated, and divorced, Crane went to stay with his grandmother perhaps the only person who expressed her love for him. In this poem, Crane wonders if silence can communicate the tender and delicate music to Elizabeth.
Crane and his adorable grandmother, Elizabeth, differ on issues because they are disconnected by the time gaps that exist between them. They can only connect with each other through memories that trigger the emotional atmosphere of the poem. At the start, Crane tries to establish connections between the dark sky, the memories, and the letters. In the last stanza, Crane tells the audience that he can only lead his grandmother just by hand because they cannot understand each other. This symbolically means that he could just give physical directions and not advice to his grandmother because they could not comprehend each other entirely. The fact that they cannot understand each other well makes the writer to doubt himself and in the end make careless movements.
In this poem, Crane has uses formal elements like similes, metaphors to express his connection with Elizabeth. The metaphors used are “…room for memory.” This metaphor indicates that though the memories are many, they can still be held since they unify both the past and the present. The other one is “…liable to melt as snow” (Winkle). This metaphor shows that memories that the letters evoke are cold as snow and impermanent just as the thoughts of misunderstandings that come with them. The other metaphor is “… invisible white hair.” This expression shows the lack of understanding between Crane and his grandmother. It is extremely thin and unclear just like a web in the wind. The metaphor “loose girdle of the soft rain” sets the rhyme of the poem (Winkle).
The similes used are “…melt as snow…” to imply the delicacy of memories that with time they are bound to thaw and disappear (Winkle).This simile also implies that lack of understanding which is as cold as snow because it puts distance between family members can melt and disappear only if people warm up to each other. This line also implies that if nothing is done on “cold” relationships, then they are bound to melt as snow and disappear just like Carnes’s parents differed and later they separated cutting all the relations. The other one is “It trembles as birch limbs webbing in the air.” This expresses the impermanence of the lack of understanding between family members.
The writer has also used rhyme to get musical. “In the loose girdle of the soft rain”, “…the invisible white hairs… birch limbs webbing the air” is also a form of rhythm (Winkle). This is the music that the writer hopes will be conveyed through silence to the Elizabeth although they did not understand each other. The poem has an iambic meter. This is illustrated by the syllables “in the loose girdle of the soft rain” (Winkle). The stressing words are followed by the non-stressing words.
All the formal elements that have been used in this poem have shown the main theme of the poem that is the lack of understanding for each other. This poem highlights the problems that Crane underwent as a child of divorced parents. The line, “and the rain continues on the roof,” shows that in spite of failing to understand, and connect with each other, the rain will wash away everything (Winkle). Rain has been used symbolically to denote the briefness of life and misunderstandings in relations.