Image: Adoption© Huffington Post
‘The Deliverer’ by Tishani Doshi starts at a convent in Kerala, India where abandoned children live (due to disability, skin colour or the fact they are girls). It is the speaker’s mother’s job to ‘deliver’ a baby to her adoptive family in America, who are waiting at Milwaukee USA. They raise her and she grows into a woman but there is sadness in the poem from the speaker’s mother who had to leave the baby behind.
The title could have two different meanings as to who is the deliverer…
- The person who biologically delivers the baby
- The person who delivers the abandoned babies to new homes
- Change in structure – tercets change to 2 line stanzas – The change in structure is very significant because it allows us to get rather explicit opinions about adoption from the developing world.
- Tercets – contrats and symbolise the broken lives
- In the second stanza, there are words such as ‘abandoned’, ‘covered’ and ‘stuffed’ which are all part of the semantic field of hiding things
- In the third stanza, the narrator states “one of them was dug up by the dog” which provokes sympathy for the girls from the reader
- The regular structure destructs in the last few stanzas, implying optimism for the girl
- The form enables the poet to explore this situation from different perspectives. It perhaps also suggests – in its shifts of time and place – both the invisible global connections which link West and East, the developed and developing world, and the fracturing of family relationships
- Shift in narrative shown by the * – allows the reader to become aware of how different people have different views.
- “They are American so they know about ceremony. And tradition, about doing things right” – this line shows the stereotype of American culture and lifestyle
- Religious references with Catholicism by the use of the word ‘Sister’ as in a nun, but it also hints at a lost relationship between the narrator and the foster baby
- The girls were “found naked in the street” shows dehumanisation and how women are perceived differently than males
- The line “from woman/to woman” suggests that the girl has gained more independence (the act of giving birth)
- The line “Feel for penis or no penis” demonstrates how in these communities, there is a lot of sexism as female babies are given away because they are girls. The women who ‘feel’ cannot afford to confront their experiences – the language returns to a kind of numbness as they go through the terrible motions of sex and birth
- Single syllable verbs thud through the lines with an emphasis on the physical
- “we couldn’t stop crying” is the one outburst of emotion and it happens to take place in America, which again reinforces the stereotype of Americans being really emotional
- The lack of figurative or descriptive contributes to a flatness of tone, expressive of the bleakness of the situation
- Everyday objects reducing the potential of new life – ‘wood’, ‘bone’, ‘garbage’
- Ambiguity – “The sister is telling my mother how she came to collect children” – the use of ambiguity and double meanings creates a sense of confusion and upheaval (something which would realate to the children’s start in life)
- The women who display such cruelty towards their girl babies are seen, in the final part to be at the mercy of a society which privileges boys. The male babies are victims too for even the men they “lie down for”, the poem hints, are trapped – by cultural and economic pressures
- The poet does not seem optimistic for the future of women like the girl’s birth mother. Because girls cannot be ‘heirs’ in some developing countries, they are often abandoned.
- At first it may seem like a story but towards the end it turns quite graphic and harsh, reminding the reader of how (if they were against this type of adoption) they can see how badly the children were treated, purely because they were born girls – “Toss the baby to the heap of others”
While the language used is bald in the extreme, a troubling psychological depth is added by the complex relationships in the poem: between the narrator, her mother, the foster child and the baby’s new parents in America. The relationships raise questions about the nature of family bonds.
These are the poems, which you would likely compare The Deliverer with…
- The War Correspondent – controversial, modern issues
- Giuseppe – controversial, modern issues, positive ‘twist’
- The Gun – America, controversial issues
(aided by Edexcel notes on the poems ‘Key features/themes’)