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On Turning Ten: Essay on Literary Devices in Billy Collins' Book

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On Turning Ten: Essay on Literary Devices in Billy Collins' Book essay

On Turning Ten is a mournful poem by Billy Collins that shows the problems one faces when they become older in life. It is a negative overtone of the changes one starts witnessing when they transition to the age of ten within the family and social setting. The author uses metaphors, imagery and a negative connotation to expound on these aspects of the poem. It is a poem that has a critical thematic attribute of transition towards understanding the world better and the expected changes that are present in life. The poem takes the reader through the different changes that the narrator has faced and how reality has dawned on the narrator on the specific changes in life. To analyze On Turning Ten, this essay examines the use of metaphors, imagery and negative overtone through the poem.

On Turning Ten is a despairing ballad. The speaker, a youngster who is turning ten sooner rather than later, talks about his emotions on going from being in the single digits to twofold. He feels as though he has a disorder of his spirit when pondering turning ten, and he understands the agony and sorrow that most likely anticipates him since he is adult. A grown-up to whom the speaker is close, probably his parent, tells the speaker that he is too youthful to even think about being review to such an extent, that he ought to make the most of his youth still. Nonetheless, the speaker admits this is unthinkable: he presently observes the world uniquely in contrast to he once did in his more youthful years.

In the first stanza, the narrator juxtaposes turning ten with the worst stomachache, headache, measles spirits and mumps of the psyche. The narrator uses the metaphorical phrases to paint a picture of the bad condition that he has faced while moving to a new age. The use of the different conditions including “disfiguring chicken pox of the soul” serves as part of the metaphorical phrases that the author has used. The use of phrases that are being drawn to paint the bad picture that the narrator faces which have been mainly exaggerated are critical in indicating the condition that the narrator faces. It is an important attribute that has been developed by the author towards identifying and creating a negative overtone of the actions that have been identified in the new life. The narrator also uses metaphors in the last stanza while noting that “But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life, I skin my knees and bleed” which is also aimed at showing the problems the narrator is facing. The sidewalks of life have been used as a metaphor to mean problems in life with bleeding being the consequences. The author has used the metaphorical phrases perfectly to expound on the massive problems that the narrator faces in a new age. Turning ten indicates the earliest age when the narrator has attained a two-digit age. The age ten is only significant since it represents the age when the narrator stops being referred to a single digit in his age towards gaining double figures.

On Turning Ten analysis continues with imagery. Imagery has been extensively used in the poem as the author aims to highlight these issues perfectly in the poem. For instance, in the second stanza, the narrator highlights that “At four I was an Arabian Wizard, I could make myself invisible…… At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.” The narrator uses all these different roles to indicate the different stages and attributes that he faced in life. The simplicity and perfect life that the author had in the past can only be expounded through the fact that the images represented a character that the narrator wanted to emulate. All the pleasures have since been removed and there have been massive problems that the narrator has faced as a result of the set changes. The changes indicate a critical pattern that is firmly modeled on the important changes that the narrator has had to reflect on over time. In the third stanza, the narrator notes that “my bicycle never leaned against the garage as it does today all the dark blue speed drained of it.” The author, in this case, uses imagery to depict the shift and changes that the narrator has had to face in a new life. I a world where the narrator has faced a new chapter in life and different responsibilities, embracing change have been a difficult attribute to accommodate in life. The use of imagery has been a critical object towards overseeing a newer and better model that is inculcated under the present conditions and expectations of others towards him. The social attributes and activities that were present in the past have become difficult to accept as the world has been completely turned and better methods have been adopted. The use of imagery has been perfectly modeled and created towards overseeing a newer and better scope of change needed in life.

The negative connotation has also been used perfectly in the poem to highlight a series of different thematic attributes as highlighted in the poem. Change is one of the major themes that the author aims to indicate in the poem. In the second stanza, the narrator notes that “You tell me it is too early to be looking back, but that is because you have forgotten the perfect simplicity of being one and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.” The negative connotation raised in this case that appears as a direct communication with an adult indicates that change is difficult at any stage. The melancholic mood of the whole poem is indicative of this fact as the social paradigm and model that the narrator’s faces have been compounded by the changes indicated perfectly. The main attributes that have been indicated map a critical change that is needed within the system and are essential towards outlining the main changes that the child has faced. Although the child is only turning ten, it is a critical age to the narrator since the changes that the narrator faces compound this fact. The negative connotation is also evident in the fourth stanza where the narrator notes that “this is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself, as I walk through the universe in my sneakers…….good-bye to my imaginary friends.” The negative connotation indicates that the author does not want to accept the imminent changes that will be present in future and does not look forward to gaining from the models that have been identified. It is indicative of a pattern that has been drawn through the poem and essentially extrapolates the main thematic attributes that are essential towards change in the narrator’s life.

To summarize, in the poem On Turning Ten, literary devices such as metaphors, imagery and negative connotation are perfectly integrated to develop the theme of change. Imagery has been extensively used in the poem as the narrator uses different images to indicate the main attributes and changes that the narrator faces. It is a critical element that has been founded on the main models as indicated through the different forms of research thereby inculcating the main themes indicated accordingly. The poem has been perfectly modeled and a negative overtone that compounds the changes that the child fears. The author connects the different parts perfectly towards raising the issues needed in the poem.

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Literary Analysis Of On Turning Ten by Billy Collins. (2021, August 18). GradesFixer. Retrieved September 29, 2022, from
“Literary Analysis Of On Turning Ten by Billy Collins.” GradesFixer, 18 Aug. 2021,
Literary Analysis Of On Turning Ten by Billy Collins. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 29 Sept. 2022].
Literary Analysis Of On Turning Ten by Billy Collins [Internet]. GradesFixer. 2021 Aug 18 [cited 2022 Sept 29]. Available from:
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