"Abuelito Who" Analysis

><><by Christina Harden



Sandra Cisneros is famous for using themes of family, culture, and ethnicity to tie together many ideas into one whole poem, and “Abuelito Who” is no exception. On the surface, “Abuelito Who” is a poem written from the view of a young child talking about their grandfather. However, on a deeper level, Cisneros uses a somber, reminiscent tone and simple, yet powerful imagery to convey the idea that nothing lasts forever, not even good relationships.

The overall “plot” of the poem helps to convey the idea that not even the best relationships can last forever. In the beginning of the poem, the narrator is describing the relationship they had with their grandfather. However, as time and the poem progress, their grandfather became more and more distant due to an illness, and now it seems as though he doesn’t even exist anymore. At the end of the poem, the narrator uses line 18, “who talks to me inside my head” to show the readers that all they have left are the memories of their grandfather, who replay themselves inside the narrator’s head. The last three lines:
><_is the rain on the roof that falls like coins
><_asking who loves him
><_who loves him who? (lines 21-23)
make it seem like the grandfather is fading for good, like rain on the roof fades: at first you notice it, but soon it fades into the background and eventually stops.

Cisneros uses a choppy and uneven writing style with little to no rhyming to help distinguish the speaker of her poem. For example, in the lines 11-13,
_>>can’t come out to play
_>>sleeps in his room all night and day
>>_who used to laugh like the letter k
>>_is sick
the narrator describes their grandfather in the same way a young child tries to convey their own ideas: with frequent pauses, the use of a simple, basic vocabulary, and very little punctuation. Throughout the piece, Cisneros uses a repetition of the word “who” almost every line, which can refer back to the lack of a better word in the speaker’s childish vocabulary.

The tone of “Abuelito Who” is very informal and intimate, supporting the idea that it is spoken from the point of view of a child talking to their grandfather. The beginning of the poem has a somber and reminiscent tone, as though the speaker is remembering the positive relationship they had with their grandfather fondly. This can be supported by the lines:
<>_who is dough and feathers
>>_who is a watch and a glass of water
<>_whose hair is made of fur
<>_is too sad to come downstairs today
<>_who tells me in Spanish you are my diamond
<>_who tells me in English you are my sky
<>_whose little eyes are string (lines 3-9).
As the poem progresses, a different tone comes into play. The tone changes from one of reminiscence to one that seems more strangled, like a child trying to fight the urge to cry. The writing becomes even more choppy, as seen in the lines,
><_is tired shut the door
><_doesn’t live here anymore
><_is hiding underneath the bed
><_who talks to me inside my head (lines 15-18).

Throughout the poem, Cisneros uses simple and straightforward imagery to illustrate the relationship between child and grandfather. In addition, the imagery and tone in the poem reflect the transformation of the relationship between the narrator and their grandfather over the course of the poem flawlessly. At the start all the way to the end of the poem, the narrator is remembering positive things about their grandfather, as seen in lines 3-4, “who is dough and feathers / who is a watch and a glass of water.” However, towards the end of the poem, the way the imagery is presented starts to become more desperate, as though the narrator is trying to get as many memories out as they can before their grandfather and the relationship the narrator has with him is lost. This is supported by lines 19-20, “is blankets and spoons and big brown shoes / who snores up and down up and down up and down again” where the lack of punctuation make it seem as though this line was spoken very quickly.

Overall, the idea this poem presents can be adapted to fit any relationship: at first, the bond between two people can be very strong, but as time progresses, the relationship begins to decay, eventually fades, and is lost. The imagery and tone that are present all throughout Sandra Cisneros' "Abuelito Who" make the poem a prime example of the idea that nothing can last forever, not even the best of relationships.


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