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In the poem, “If You Forget Me” by Pablo Neruda there is an overwhelming amount of hidden textual messages. Neruda exaggerates his conflict between his unconditional love for a woman, and his rigid attitude toward her if she does not return his affections. Neruda writes this poem with several emotions that are changed within each stanza from love, to terror. A few of the emotions Neruda writes with words of love and compassion; however, he also states the dangers of love, where he writes in a stern manner because of his fear. He is internally conflicted with the idea of love and the happiness and pain it brings. Neruda expresses this idea in his poem with the use of personification, imagery, and sentimentality. Neruda begins the poem by describing his powerful love for a woman which makes it clear that he will do anything to please this woman. Yet, this poem also states the dangers of being in love exhibiting the risks, and anxiety of opening oneself up to love and making oneself vulnerable.
Neruda states this idea about vulnerability of love with authority with the statement, “I want you to know one thing” (line 1). Neruda sets the tone for the poem in this one sentence with a warning to the woman that he is in charge of the future conflict of love between them. Although Neruda starts with a dark serious tone he uses personification to convey his message of authorized love. He does this by comparing the delicacy of nature to the allure of love such as, “the wrinkled body of the log” (line 10), and “as if everything that exists,/ aromas, light, metals,/ were little boats/ that sail/ toward those isles of your that wait for me” (lines 12-16). These lines depict Neruda’s enticement of this woman’s beauty. The woman is compared to “mother nature” the center in which the beautiful parts of nature like the “aromas, lights, and metals” all come from. Neruda is infatuated with her beauty which drives his emotions of love towards her. In the third stanza the mood of the poem changes dramatically to his vulnerability of love, “if little by little you stop loving me/ I shall stop loving you little by little” (lines 18-19). Neruda is expressing the extent of his vulnerability when loving this woman. He states he will stop loving her before she may stop loving him because of how scared he is to be hurt by love and the perception of him being in control. Neruda symbolizes this idea in the fifth stanza through imagery. Neruda writes, “To leave me at the shore/ of the heart where I have roots” (line 28-29), Neruda is referring to an island which symbolizes himself and his heart in relation to the woman he loves. His roots tether him to the island where he has learned and adapted but to love this woman means he must branch out from the island. This require Neruda to leave his safe place which terrifies him. However, Neruda then states that if the woman will leave him at the shore of his safe island, “that on that day/ at that hour/ I shall lift my arms/ and my roots will set off/ to seek another land” (lines 31-35), he will find another lover and will not wait for her to come back to him.
Although Neruda is scared to be so vulnerable he still craves love. He specifically wants this woman’s love, but if she does not reciprocate the feelings then he will take charge and leave. Neruda is constantly reminding the readers of his authority over his heart and his love by always stating that he will find another woman or stop loving before the possibility of getting hurt. Although Neruda is trying to have a stern appearance he returns to his sentimentality at the end of the poem. In the last stanza, Neruda returns to the tone of love and compassion. The last stanza begins with the keyword “But”(line 36) which stands alone to emphasize the powerful meaning behind this word. Before this point Neruda argues of the pain of love and he will move on before he gets hurt; however, with the word “but” he enters into a compromise with love. Despite the fear and vulnerability, Neruda is so in love that he returns to writing in this loving tone. He writes, “if each day/ each hour/ you feel that you are destined for me/ with implacable sweetness” (lines 37-40) and“in me all that fire is repeated/ in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten” (lines 41-42).
Neruda finally states his true feeling of love for this woman and believes if the feelings between the two are reciprocated then nothing will get in the way of their love. He will never stop loving the woman if she loves him back. The entire poem is based on Neruda’s emotions towards the woman, but get to the core emotions by the end of the poem of pure love, and the fear of not having mutual love. Although these are several other literary techniques Neruda uses such as alliteration, assonance, diction, tone, etc. , he focuses on the use of personification to express the beauty of his love for the woman. Neruda also uses imagery to express to the reader the painful struggle love has with making oneself vulnerable and leaving the comfort of the already known. Lastley, throughout Neruda’s poem he uses sentimentality, but in the last paragraph he focuses on this device to convey his true emotions of pure love for this woman. In the final analysis of the poem it is clear that Neruda uses personification, imagery and sentimentality in his poem to convey his message of love in a fearful, yet passionate way for a woman who may not love him.
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