Death Speaks: A Study of Mourning Picture

Essay by EssaySwap ContributorHigh School, 12th grade February 2008

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?Mourning Picture,? is a title shared by two pieces of artwork created by two distinct artists. Adrienne Rich, born in 1929 in Baltimore, illustrates a young girl?s view of her life after death in the poem, ?Mourning Picture.? Edwin Romanzo Elmer?s painting entitled, ?Mourning Picture,? share certain symbolic similarities in comparison with Rich?s work. Edwin Romanzo Elmer created his painting as a memorial to his daughter Effie in 1890. Adrienne Rich?s poem smoothes the process of understanding the painting by creating a natural composition. She focuses on the images portrayed in Elmer?s painting to embody personal emotions.

In Edwin Romanzo Elmer?s painting, appropriate symbols are used to represent death. Effie has passed away and her parents are reflecting back on her life. The painting portrays an image of a couple, dressed in black and sitting underneath a lilac bush. Lilacs, commonly known as one of the best loved flowering shrubs, bring mixed emotions that are linked with love and death.

T.S. Elliot struck the bluest note writing, ?April is the cruelest month, breeding lilacs out of the dead land, mixing memory and desire? (12). Lilacs symbolize the death of winter and the rebirth of spring. Lilac leaves are another symbol used in Rich?s poem, ?draw out the map of every lilac leaf or the net of veins on my father?s grief-tranced hand? (1201). Not only does this metaphor describe the lilac leaf as being veined but also depicts how the father is feeling through the detail of his hand. The imagery appears dark and dreary. The black clothing symbolizes death. The painting brings forth the emotional feelings of the couple and the daughter with the use of symbolic images.

In the poem, ?Mourning Picture,? Adrienne Rich provides meaning to the painting by giving the young girl,