This poem, written in first person narration, is about the persona’s hostility towards his workplace and the type of work he does. As the title itself suggests, what the persona talks about in the poem is what takes place at the ‘end of shift’ of his work and thus implies that the same events are likely to occur for the next day and the day after. This commentary will explore how the poet brings out the persona’s attitude towards work and his feelings of exhaustion through various literary devices.
The first line of the poem effectively conveys the message to the reader of the persona’s stance on his day of work. The seemingly familiar line ‘the day has been too long’ often heard amongst Singaporean workers and even uttered by the readers themselves has a tone of annoyance in it, making it sound like a complaint. The word ‘too’ emphasizes on the word ‘long’ which indicates that the day has lasted longer than it should be. However, this does not mean the day itself but rather his ‘shift’ as his ‘day’ primarily consists of his shift at work.Order now
This statement sets the tone of resentment to the poem which is carried throughout the entire poem. Thus the poet effectively evokes this feeling of exhaustion immediately at the beginning of the poem as the blatant and straightforward statement implies that the persona is too tired to beat around the bush but instead, cuts to the chase about how he is feeling. Diction is a technique employed by the poet to give the persona a distinct “voice”. The choice of words like ‘looming large and white’ to describe his workplace expresses his feelings of inferiority to it. The words ‘large and white’ suggest a very cold and domineering environment in his workplace where the lack of colour indicates lifelessness. This is why the persona is feeling exhausted precisely because human emotions like feelings of exhaustion are simply not taken into account at the workplace.
The fact that his workplace is constantly ‘looming’ over him makes him powerless and inescapable against it. This daunting idea makes the persona feel pessimistic about his future as he is unable to escape from his work. In addition, his workplace is metaphorised as a ‘twenty-four hour termite queen’ where the word ‘termite’ shows how the persona feels that his place of work is merely a pest to humans. The persona is full of abhorrence especially when he describes the termite queen as ‘still churning in her bowls’. To the persona, he is merely part of an organ that never stops working by doing the ‘churning’ in the bowels of the termite queen. This idea of constant work thus effectively evokes feelings of exhaustion in the poem. This idea of being part of a ‘termite queen’ evokes so much resentment in the persona that he ‘would’ve enjoyed doing something rude in her face’.
To end of the first section of the poem, the poet employs topography to highlight the persona’s exhaustion. The line ‘but i only have spirit enough’ shortens to the next line ‘to get me to the last’ and finally ends of the first section with the last line ‘bus home’. This gives the reader the idea that as the persona is narrating, he is panting in between the lines and his pace of narration significantly slows down. Thus, the reader himself feels the exhuastion and breathlessness that the persona feels without the persona directly stating how he feels. In addition, the poet employs enjambment where the lines continuously run-on without any punctuation. This is juxtaposed against the endless amount of work that the persona has to do and this idea of constant work further emphasizes the feelings of exhaustion the persona experiences.
The poet employs metaphor in the poem to further emphasise the persona’s discontentment with his workplace as well as the exhaustion he feels. The bus which the persona rides home becomes a ‘metal monster’ that ‘jerks’ to life and throws the persona ‘scowling into dead innards’. This imagery is similar to the ‘twenty-four hour termite queen’ as the unfriendliness of the organisation the persona works for is emphasised. However in this instance, his workplace becomes a ‘monster’ , much like a beast rather than a pest, which suggests that the persona’s working environment is hostile and the persona experiences greater animosity towards his work the more he thinks about it.
Although he is outside of his workplace, the persona’s transport by bus, which is shared by ‘a few who can still work their faces’, reminds the persona yet again of his work. The word ‘dead’ mirrors the exhaustion of the workers and the words used to describe sound such as ‘growling’ and ‘scowling’ verbalise the inner unhappiness of the workers. In addition, the alliteration ‘metal monster’ on the letter ‘m’ creates a low murmuring sound that gives the idea of the workers softly grunting among themselves, thus allowing the reader to once again empathise with the persona’s feelings.
In conclusion, the poet employs various literary devices to evoke feelings of exhuastion in the poem and show the attitude of the persona towards his work. Through this poem, the poet questions whether what happens in the poem is merely the persona’s individual experience or is a representation of the society in Singapore. The poet’s message is that our society has sacrificed human emotions in pursuit of sophistication and this poem expresses his lamentation in knowing this.