(on gossip and indiscretion)
An interesting word used in the poem is ‘pome’. If you look up its meaning in the dictionary, you’ll find that, in this context, it is the king and queen of metaphors, not to say innuendo. The obvious metaphor is indicated at the beginning of the line in the verse in which this word is used – Adam’s Eve. The less obvious and reference is the botanical definition!
There is, however, an overriding theme in this poem: a message about the potential, damaging effects of gossip. It is a cautionary tale, which also has a snipe at people at all levels – from small scale gossip in the office to public gossip by the ‘gutter’ press, whose journalists are paid to dig dirt, the consequences of which usually involves the temptation to make up what they don’t actually know. Even if you refuse to read this press, you know it is still poisoning the minds of the many who do read it, with all its concomitant side effects.
If you examine the motives of individuals for whatever they do – and each one of us is a unique individual, a product of our environment and our genetic heritage – it is not possible to write a commentary about their lives, without giving time to understand the individual personality. That’s the short of it and the reason why all gutter press journalists should be made to do community service in three areas: (i) in a deprived area of our own society (ii) living in a community of a very poor third world country and (iii) given strict guidelines, to sit in silence and listen to someone they have slandered or libelled, tell them all about themselves, thence to write an (accurate) an adjudicated essay on it.
I’d be surprised if one of these exercises didn’t radically alter their ambitions. Hmmm, fanciful I know, but I love the idea!
(Read the Poem)
This is a very interesting topic, John. Have you ever seen the film, “The lives of others”? It is a German film during the communist regime of the GDR, where the intellectuals were completely monitored. Amongst these intellectuals that were affected the most were those that could influence public opinion, writers, actors. And with this total invasion of privacy there was an associated high number of suicides.
Another example of this gossip you talk about is the land lady in “The Trial” of Franz Kafka, where she observed Fräulein Bürstner a couple of times in the company of different gentlemen at night. She suggests by implication to Joseph K that Fräulein Bürstner must be a prostitute.
The most tragic thing about this is that the conveyor of gossip or the stalker of privacy becomes invisible as the lens focusses on the incriminated person, the victim.