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Oliver Twist

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Mary Oliver's "Wild Geese" is truly a testament to the human soul and speaks of many spiritual things, although some of the symbols she used are being viewed negatively. Ideas about spiritual matters undergo changes every generation. People interpret things to fit their ideas and ideals. Even a simple Bible verse can be interpreted in many different ways. So it is no wonder that even a poem like "Wild Geese", which seems to denounce traditional Christian ideals of goodness, may actually support them depending on a person's interpretation.

"You don't have to be good", a true statement made my Mary Oliver in her 1986 poem "Wild Geese". What does this mean? Is Oliver encouraging everyone to drop their morals and values? More plausible, she is just telling the truth, no one has to be good, but of course this assumption is totally based on interpretation alone. The rest of Oliver's poem uses symbols to express what she may have really felt.

"You don't have to walk on your knees/ for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting" is the second line in "Wild Geese". At first glance, this may seem negative, but if look at from a different aspect, she is merely stating a fact in Christian doctrine. In modern Christianity all that is required of a Christian to repent once of that sin and continue life with no condemnation. Clearly, she is not shunning traditional methods of repentance and contrition, which is how it has been previously scrutinized. It could also just be a way of stating that repentance does not have to be a grueling process.

The next symbol Oliver uses is the soft animal of your body and she advises her readers to allow it to love what it loves. This is excellent advice if one believes she stated that repentance did not have to be a difficult process in the proceeding line. Oliver is purely stating to just allow yourself to be human. Although this could be interpreted as her denouncing morals and to just do whatever you want to do. If one were to look at the poem in its original interpretation, one may easily think that is what she means.

Line seven begins the second part of the poem. In the second part Oliver continues with her symbols of nature. "Meanwhile the world goes on./ Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain/ are moving across the landscape,/over the prairies and the deep trees,/ the mountain an the rivers." These lines symbolize how everything in the world is connected because it is it created the Almighty. According to a student essay "the idea here is that there is a larger existence than the one that is defined by human concepts of goodness or repentance, guilt, or despair" (692). This interpretation is still based on the notion that Oliver is speaking pessimistically of Christian methods. Both interpretations concur that there is a larger existence at work but how this existence is viewed, positively or negatively.

The next symbol introduced in the poem is the most important and is from which the title is derived. "Meanwhile, the wild geese, high

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