Hanging Fire

Essay by PaperNerd ContributorHigh School, 12th grade October 2001

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Self-centered Teen or Thought-invoking Speaker : "Hanging Fire" by Audre Lorde The speaker in Audre Lord's poem "Hanging Fire" is extremely self-centered. Does this limit the poem's ability to say anything of general value? A simple read of "Hanging Fire" by Audre Lorde might lead one to conclude that there is no real value in this self-centered poem. However, upon critical analysis, one can obtain valuable insights from the poem. The 14-year-old speaker deals with major issues that plague the adolescent generation such as peer acceptance, race and gender inequality, sexuality, death and communication with parents. In the following paragraphs, I will demonstrate the speaker's feelings on each of these matters.

One issue that the speaker addresses is the pressure to fit in with her peers. The poem deals with such topics as dancing and upcoming parties ("I have to learn to dance/ In time for the next party"), the importance of fashion ("I have nothing to wear tomorrow") and physical appearance ("Why do I have to be/ The one/ Wearing braces").

These are typical topics that cause teenagers to fear failure in terms of social acceptance. The pressure of not fitting into societal norms can oppress these young individuals, both emotionally and socially and the speaker is quite clear in the poem that she is concerned with these issues.

Secondly, the issue of racial and gender inequality is evident in the poem. The speaker appears to be an African American girl. The poem begins with "I am fourteen/ And my skin has betrayed me". This line could be interpreted in two ways. First, it could indicate that the speaker is dealing with pimples and blemishes, another example of a teenager's concern about physical appearance. On the other hand, a more interesting interpretation is...



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