Part I: Scansion and Analysis
“Little Feet” by Gabriela Mistral is a poem about children that are in poverty and how we, as a society, so easily ignore those who need us most. Mistral uses a very symmetrical and structured poem to allude to the strict plan we use to treat poverty and how it heightens the indifference. Mistral also uses
This poem is broken down into six stanzas without rhyme scheme or meter. It is free verse, and the punctuation is conventional with periods and exclamation points being used at the end of each stanza. There are also commas used every second line throughout to give the poem a natural pause. Mistral wrote and structures this poem in a very controlled pattern. There are six stanzas and four lines in each stanza making it very symmetrical. This structure can be viewed as a metaphor of how we treat children in poverty. We have set things that we do, whether that is sending money or food to these places they live or even mission trips, but we are not elaborate with our help. For the most part, after we do these things, we turn our head and no longer “see” them. The punctuation sticks out to me, especially the exclamation points in the first and last stanza. The author uses the punctuation to call your attention to seeing these children and no longer ignoring them. The exclamation points also bring even more symmetry to the poem and ties it together from beginning to end.
Part II: Explication
The main idea of this poem is that these impoverished children are valuable but vulnerable; therefore, instead of ignoring these helpless children, we should be nourishing and helping them grow. The author alludes to these many times throughout the poem. She asks the questions, “how can they see you and not cover you” (3) and “how can people pass/ and not see you!” (22-23) to help bring to light that these kids are not being cared for.
The visual imagery in this poem really drives the messages of impoverished children in third world countries. For example, the Mistral uses images such as, “Little feet of children/ blue with cold” and “Little wounded feet/ cut all of them by pebbles” to paint a picture of how terrible the life of these children is (1-2, 5-6). Our feet are warm and safe because we own shoes, but her images are a stark contrast to our reality. The author contrasts the physical torture of the children to the beauty and worth of the child. For example, Mistral states, “a flower of living light/ you leave” and “little feet of children,/ two tiny suffering jewels” (11-12, 21-22). This is a beautiful example of imagery. It portrays the child as beautiful and important. The author uses these images to argue how these children are valuable, and they do not deserve to be ignored anymore. Their little feet and souls do not deserve the pain of poverty, and it is our job to change it. These images are also metaphors by comparing the children to jewels and flowers. These are tangible objects of importance and beauty contrasting the indifference these children experience.
At the beginning of the poem, Mistral uses short and blunt diction to create a cold and solemn tone. For example, she uses “blue”, “cold”, “snow”, and “mire” to describe the children’s environment (2, 7, 8). This tone further conveys the message of how we ignore impoverished children. We are cold to them and show them no respect. The tone shifts in stanza three from cold and solemn to respectful. Mistral uses words such as, “flower”, “light”, “fragrant”, “heroic”, and “jewels” to create a tone of respect and admiration (11, 16, 19, 22). Mistral admires these children, and she is respecting them. She uses this tone shift to symbolize the call to action. She calls us to acknowledge these children and to help them escape poverty. The author uses these images, diction, and tone to convey the theme of pain throughout this poem. These children are in pain because of our indifference, and we must see and respect these children to change it.