Within ‘In Your Heart’ Carver delves into themes of father/daughter relationships, coming of age, and loss. The mood of the text dips and rises as the father and daughter struggle with their own emotions throughout life’s ups and downs. There are joyous occasions, such as at her wedding, and heartbreaking ones such as at the end of the poem when the father is dying.
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Summary of In Your Heart
The poem takes the reader through three memories. The first is of the girl’s first day of school, the second of her wedding, and the third of the father’s death. Each time they share a tender moment and are reminded of the place they hold in one another’s memory and heart.
You can read the full poem here.
Structure of In Your Heart
‘In Your Heart’ by Thomas S. Carver is a three-stanza poem that’s separated into sets sixteen lines. These lines follow a loose rhyme scheme of AABBCCDD, and so on, changing end sounds as the poem progresses. There are moments where rather than the end rhymes being perfect they are only half-rhymes.
Also known as slant or partial rhyme, half-rhyme, is seen through the repetition of assonance or consonance. This means that either a vowel or consonant sound is reused within one line, or multiple lines of verse. For example, “girl” and “school” at the ends of lines one and two of the first stanza. There are also examples within the lines rather than at the ends. For instance, the “r” consonant sound in lines five, six, and seven of the first stanza.
Poetic Techniques in In Your Heart
In ‘In Your Heart’ Carver makes use of several poetic techniques. These include alliteration, enjambment, anaphora, and epistrophe. The first, alliteration, occurs when words are used in succession, or at least appear close together, and begin with the same letter. For example, “daughter danced” in line six of the second stanza and “dying dad” and “daughter” in line five of the third stanza.
Carver also makes use of anaphora, or the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of multiple lines, usually in succession. This technique is often used to create emphasis. A list of phrases, items, or actions may be created through its implementation. This can be seen in the use of “He” and “I” at the beginning of several lines in all three stanzas.
Another important technique commonly used in poetry is enjambment. It occurs when a line is cut off before its natural stopping point. Enjambment forces a reader down to the next line, and the next, quickly. One has to move forward in order to comfortably resolve a phrase or sentence. There are examples throughout the poem, such as in the transition between lines one and two of the second stanza and one and two of the third stanza.
Epistrophe is the repetition of the same word, or a phrase, at the end of multiple lines or sentences. For example, “heart” and “apart” at the ends of lines fifteen and sixteen in all three stanzas.
Analysis of In Your Heart
In the first stanza of ‘In Your Heart’ the speaker begins by addressing a father and his feelings towards his “little girl”. The stanza takes the reader to the first day of this little girl’s school. They are solemn, “quiet and sad” as they walk together to the doors. The little girl as no desire to leave her father, but for her sake, he has to be brave. He almost cries when she begs him not to leave her there.
It is at this point in the poem in which Carver makes use of the refrain. It is eight lines long and is repeated in the second half of all three stanzas. In this instance, it applies to the father leaving the daughter for the first day of school, but it is used differently each time. The father comforts his daughter, telling her that it’ll be okay and that they’ll be “together though” they are “apart”. Their memories will keep them that way.
In the second stanza of ‘In Your Heart’, a different scenario/memory plays itself out. A great deal of time has passed and the father is at his daughter’s wedding. He does cry in this instance when his daughter walked away from him up to the altar. She has no fear of leaving her father now and he watches as she dances.
When the second half of the poem begins it is slightly different than in its first iteration. This time she is comforting him. She tells him that she’s going away but will stay if he needs her to. He tells her that it’ll be fine and then uses the same lines “I have our memories in my heart. / We’re together though we’re apart”.
The final stanza of ‘In Your Heart’ is the saddest of the three. Another jump in time occurs and the father is dying in the hospital. His daughter comes to visit him and begs him not to leave her there alone. He tells her that she has to go, but that he “loves [her] so”. The final lines of the poem take on a new meaning as he tells her that he’ll always be in her heart “We’re together though we’re apart”.