Analysis of Fear by Gabriela Mistral

Poem: “Fear” by Gabriela Mistral (translated by Doris Dana)

GabrielaMistral explores a mother’s thoughts and wishes in the poem ‘Fear’. The title of the poem generates a shaking fear in the reader’s mind. It seems to be the actual feeling of the mother who speaks in the poem.

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The main thematic idea behind the poem is a mother’s fear that when people are influenced by social pressures to be too ambitious, they tend to lose or reject the close and warm human relationships and the basic down to earth enjoyments in life. It these relationships that the poet considers to be of greater value than worldly success, gaining wealth and fame.

I don’t want them to turn
my little girl into a swallow.
She would fly far away into the sky
and never fly again to my straw bed,
or she would nest in the eaves
where I could not comb her hair.
I don’t want them to turn
my little girl into a swallow.

them – outsiders and outside forces that teach people to be ambitious.
swallow – (metaphor) a small migratory bird which fly away to find suitable climates.
sky – (symbol ) limitless space
straw bed – (symbol/ imagery) meager life, probably a simple life

The mother fears that the forces in the society like media, teachers, instructors and peers would make her girl child too much ambitious in her life where she may forget the value of her simple life. She fears that her child may leave her in search of better and luxurious life leaving her mother behind. She adds her need of the warm relationship between mother and daughter in the phrase ‘I could not comb her hair.’ Her repetition of the statement that she does not want her girl to be a swallow shows the weight of the emphasis she keeps on her idea.

I don’t want them to make
my little girl a princess.                                                                                    
In tiny golden slippers
how could she play on the meadow?
And when night came, no longer
would she sleep at my side.
I don’t want them to make
my little girl a princess.

a princess – (symbol ) the most glamourous position that a woman can ever reach. (according to the social norms.)
Golden slippers –( imagery, symbol ) wealthy lifestyle
play on the meadow – (image ) free and enjoyable life.

The speaker fears if her daughter becomes too much ambitious, she may not be able to enjoy the freedom and happiness in her life. Again she fears her daughter might leave their warm relationship that they share at the moment. She understands the glamourous social status and materials can harm their simple and stress free life. As well as the attraction to those can shatter the beloved relationship between a mother and a daughter.

And even less do I want them
one day to make her queen.
They would put her on a throne
where I could not go to see her.
And when night time came
I could never rock her …
I don’t want them to make
my little girl a queen!*

a throne – (symbol )  kingship, the highest position for a person can ever have in life.
*( repetition ) emphasize her intentions.

The mother fears that her daughter may look down her if she climbed up too high in the social ladder. She fears that she might lose their relationship if her daughter becomes too much ambitious in her life because of social pressures. She craves for the desire of mothers to have her children under her warm feathers and love them. She understands that the desires and material achievements can harm the warm human qualities in people.

The poem seems particularly relevant to society in today’s world (specially people who run after an American dream) where many parents and many children tend to over-value high professional and social status and under state the values of life like relationships on the way up the social ladder.
Although the poem is not very hard to understand, as readers of literature, you can be empathetic and transmit that idea to the society. In that way, you make the world a better place.   

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  1. brief and very clear analysis thank you

  2. Very good work. This is a great help for students

  3. Replies
    1. Mothers' love and attachment towards children.
      Social forces that drift relationships apart.

  4. Sir,if i consider that the mother in this poem is a good one whobelieves in conventional values ,can u give me some points to emphasize it.And also can i have some negative things about this mother's way of thinking

    1. Believing in conventional values itself can be taken as a positive point as well as a negative point. She is obviously a good mother because she is ready to be devoted and be with her sharing and fulfilling her emotional needs. Her views about the society might be conventional because she does not want her to thrive in the modern world. She does not like her to be a 'princess' nor a 'swallow' fearing she would be corrupted or fly away from her. Her over possessive nature to keep her by her side can be taken as a negative point. She does not believe in the society; this might be because of her own bitter experiences which keep her backward. She does not ask what the daughter wants, the poem is cluttered with lots of "I", that means in a way she is a bit selfish.

  5. Sir can we take like this,The main purpose of a mother/Parent is not make her chold a queen but to make her to face any challenges and hardship and making herself useful in the society

  6. And sir ht are the things if w take mother here is correct and wht are the things if we have t write that she is mostly interested infamily bond?

  7. Sir i have to do a ebtae on the topic the mother in this poem is not foolish and correct..can u send me some ideas and some break up points to break the mother's foolishness like Keep child always with her

    1. Highlight some examples from the society to show why parents should be with daugters, rationalize mother's point bringing out solid examples from Asian contex.

  8. Sir can't we tell mother is little bit selfish that thinks about herself only not about her daughter's future