For many people a birthday marks a day of festivities: inviting family and friends over for a celebration with a meal, presents, and the popular cutting of the birthday cake. However, I believe that Paul Goodman’s “Birthday Cake” depicts a painful and upsetting scene with the celebration of a birthday. Through his choice of words, images portrayed in the poem, and symbols, Goodman reveals a dark point of view on this special day: birthdays celebrate death rather than life for the old. The first clue of the painful reminder of death is the
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The cacophony and constant reminder of too many, too many, too many candles in the first stanza reveal the frustration of the speaker. It almost seems as if the speaker is stammering with frustration, like an elderly person would stammer. The second stanza uses longer verses with euphonic words such as “fluttering,” and “most loveliest sight.” These words possess harmony and easily roll off the tongue when read aloud. The first stanza’s “too many to blow out / too many to count too many” are significantly harsher on the ears.
Next, the sestet poem turns to a frustrated tone in the third, and final, stanza with a metaphorical solution to Goodman’s age problem. Goodman uses anaphora once more with phrases from the first stanza: “isn’t it time” repeated twice and “too many” once. However, this time Goodman seems to the answer the rhetoric from the first stanza about giving up this birthday ritual: and isn’t it time, isn’t it time when the fires are too many to eat the fire and not the cake
Goodman reiterates the too many candles on the cake, but this time he uses the fire flames to represent the candles. More importantly, his solution to his “too many candles” problem is to eat the fire (candles) instead of the cake. Goodman is not being literal, but rather using an implied metaphor. By metaphorically consuming the candles, the speaker is consuming his