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A Story by Li-Young Lee

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Amy Nicar

on 30 August 2013

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Transcript of A Story by Li-Young Lee

Poem Structure
Li-Young Lee’s, A Story, shares a story of a father’s fear of losing his son and love. Lee conveys the scenario’s message and emotion through stanza length. Throughout the poem, the number of lines in a stanza increase. The increase of stanza length represents the escalation of emotions in this piece. The first three stanzas introduce the scene and characters with an average of three lines each. As the poem progresses, the father begins to imagine the fallout of the relationship with his son. He has thoughts such as, “…he thinks, the boy/ will give up on his father” (9). As the speaker’s tone increases in anxiety, the amount of lines in the stanzas increases as well. The last three stanzas express a gradual buildup then decrease of uneasiness. The sentiment attached to these stanzas lengthened them. It is as if each line represents a higher level of emotion causing stanzas that are intensified to be longer.
The word choice that is used elaborates on the complexity of the relationship between the father and son as well. The speaker uses words to generalize the story and allow it to be relatable to the readers. The title is A Story and the last line states “a father’s love add up to the silence”. The use of “a” instead of “the” proves that this is situation is not exclusive or unheard of – there is a chance that it can occur in reality. Using “the” would mean one specific father would be afraid to lose one specific son. However, since this poem is written in a general and relatable form, it shows that the relationship of the father and son in the piece is not complex. Although there can be obstacles between a father and a son, this poem proves that these situations can occur to almost anyone and it is normal.
Theme (Father's perspective)
Lee’s father was under a lot of pressure: he was constantly being relocated by the Chinese government and the poem might be an expansion of a fathers worry: Can I keep my family safe? Is my family scared? Does my family notice I’m scared too? Does my son love me, even though we move so much and he is burdened like an adult?
"Am I a god that I should never dissapoint?”
By: Li-Young Lee
Sad is the man who is asked for a story
and can't come up with one.

His five-year-old son waits in his lap.
Not the same story, Baba. A new one.
The man rubs his chin, scratches his ear.

In a room full of books in a world
of stories, he can recall
not one, and soon, he thinks, the boy
will give up on his father.

Already the man lives far ahead, he sees
the day this boy will go. Don't go!
Hear the alligator story! The angel story once more!
You love the spider story. You laugh at the spider.
Let me tell it!

But the boy is packing his shirts,
he is looking for his keys. Are you a god,
the man screams, that I sit mute before you?
Am I a god that I should never disappoint?

But the boy is here. Please, Baba, a story?
It is an emotional rather than logical equation,
an earthly rather than heavenly one,
which posits that a boy's supplications
and a father's love add up to silence.

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