Theme, Imagery and Symbolism in “The Kiss”
Guy de Maupassant wrote the poem “The Kiss” in form of a letter. The speaker is an elderly woman, Collette, who is giving advice to her niece about the subject of intimacy. Collette is advising her niece who has asked her for help regarding her marital issues. Collette opens up to her and she points out where she thinks that her niece could be going wrong. Collette speaks from her heart as her niece what she should do to keep her marriage intact. Through the letter, she warns, advices, and reprimands her niece, while at the same time showing her how much she loves her and how she is willing for things to work out for her. The poet uses imagery and symbolism to enforce the theme of intimacy in the poem.
The main theme in the poem is intimacy, which has especially been expressed through actions such as kissing and caressing. Collette emphasizes the importance of knowing how to show intimacy in the right manner. She stipulates that women have the most powerful weapons of charm and caresses, but they should know how to use them conveniently. She tells the young niece that her actions of intimacy might be the reason why her marriage is in trouble. She says, “You say that you are all attention, love, kisses and caresses for him. Perhaps that is the very trouble; I think you kiss him too much.” Collette then proceeds to tell her niece how she should express her intimacy. She tells her that men do not like to be kissed in public, or when they are busy doing something. As she sees it, this puts them in an awkward situation. She says, “It is bad taste; do not give in to your desires. He would feel ridiculous and would never forgive you.” The author has used figurative, sensory and descriptive language to illustrate and enforce intimacy.
The speaker uses similes when she compares women to kings. She says that women hold all the power, yet they are skillful in the way they rule; choosing to maintain peace rather than use their force. Collette says that love is as “strong as death” yet at the same time, it is as “frail as glass”. The author has personified some elements in the poem. The speaker talks of love being a terrible power, and adds that it breaks at the slightest shock. She talks of it being delicate and notes that it is usually offended. She talks of a delicate and charming observation and the “obstinacy of begging lips. The speaker has used imagery in the form of sensory and descriptive language. For instance, she speaks of losing the sentiment of delicacy in embraces. She also speaks of love being made of imperceptible sensations. The speaker talks of the “first delicious kisses through the veil,” which make the men, tremble when they remember them. She has also included metaphors, which further emphasize and clarifies the theme. She says, “When we know how to hold out and give up our lips we can become queens.
The speaker talks of a kiss being the strongest weapon. This symbolizes the fact that it is able to destroy or even kill. The speaker in the poem is an old woman. Old age is usually a symbol of wisdom, usually gained from experience. The speaker talks of “the moist veil, which discolors and carries the dreadful odor of chemical dye.” This statement is laden with sexual connotations. The speaker could be speaking of the effects of a kiss, which leads the two lovers to experience the chemistry between them. The moist veil is a symbol of wet lips. Archilles’ heel is a symbol o weakness. The speaker has used this to show where women fail in their quest for intimacy and affection.
Collette’s advice to her niece may seem outdated today, but that does not mean that it is not practical and applicable. People have become more open about love and intimacy and they are not afraid to show it in public. This might seem like the right thing to do, but after reading the letter, I am of the opinion that the ideas given may not be outdated. I especially agree with the idea that men feel ridiculous and uncomfortable when women insist that they become intimate with them when they are not in a position to do so. On the other hand, some men may not mind being affectionate in public places.