Closet of Red

I think this poem is about Jones suffocating in his own femininity and pressures to conform. Unable to speak, his words are words falling out like flowers– flowers die, flowers wilt. His words fall flat, they lose their meaning, he loses his ability to articulate himself. Flowers are associated with femininity– are his words are too feminine, too soft? Dresses are associated with femininity as well, and are a recurring theme in his poetry. They’re closing in, almost taunting. The closet is locked, he is trapped. It is filling up with petals, suffocating his in dresses, corsets, silks– his own femininity and pressure to conform is what is suffocating him. He fears a part of himself and feels compelled to apologize, vowing never to ask for mother again, h Are the dresses an empty version of a mother figure he lacks or longs for? He is reaching out, hands=touching, feeling for something that is not there. Mothers “emptied out,” is he reaching for something that does not exist? He is searching for some answer within dresses that are like corpses, they are empty, they are nothing, but they hold power. Is “mother” suffocating him? Is this punishment? He trys to say no but he is silenced by flowers. Flowers usually mean growth, life, spring, new beginnings. Here they suffocate him. Is there no life left? Something so filled with life, filled with new growth betray him, trap him. Metaphors that would typically be beautiful in poetry are menacing, dangerous, encrouching on him like a disease.

3 thoughts on “Closet of Red”

  1. This is a really interesting interpretation. I think it’s really fascinating how across his poetry, dresses become a metaphor for both his mother and his fear of/fascination with femininity. I like how you say that the dresses represent a mother figure he longs for. I think here we can see maybe even jealousy or resentment that exists surrounding his mother’s ability to freely express femininity. In “The Blue Dress” we can see this as well with the way he describes his mother’s dress as both beautiful and ruinous. He is in a battle with himself, feeling shame, jealousy, and longing around the idea of femininity.

  2. I really loved your interpretation and the way you express, as though I’m seeing perfectly your stream of consciousness. It is avery powerful way of writing. I had also analyzed this poem but I could not reach the same conclusions as you, the fact that you have related flowers that smother him with his own feminity makes much sense. What I did notice is the title though, “Closet in Red” (maybe the color red portrays the notion of comitting a sin), because there is another poem of this same book that has also a colour in the name “The Blue Dress”. Not only that, both of them employ clothing diction and an absent mother. It seems that in these two poems Jones tried to express the guilt he feels for being different and not being able to please his parents. Something that, as you well mentioned, suffocates him.

  3. Your take on the flowers and the tie to femininity and growth and life with the contrast of how Jones uses the representation of flowers is one that I was not able to make on my own with this poem, but it makes perfect sense when hearing about it. I think in Thralldom there is a similar connection with the idea of something beautiful ultimately hurting you with the hyacinths. It also shows the multiple ways Jones uses flowers in his poems, I believe in one other poem as well, and gives the idea that perhaps for Jones, flowers had a specific memory or idea connected to them that had an impact on him growing up.

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