Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Motif in "Loan Shark"

As previously stated, I love “Loan Shark”, but I confess that even after some close-reading I am still a little confused by what the poem is saying. But since I finally discovered what a loan shark is, I feel a little more confident in my idea.

I think that “Loan Shark” is a story about a young man who suffered a criminal catastrophe within his family (the references to lies and jails and the actual title make me think it was a crime) that made him question his self. The speaker is the man/woman, and the audience is the guilty one who affected him so. The beginning of the song is quiet, and the speaker reflects on his surroundings. In the next verse of the song “Hard rain… unravel your mind” the speaker admits to always loving his audience, despite the press (“the papers”) and dirty facts (“grit and grime”) which come alongside trials and crimes and blackmail. Before the musical climax of the song, the butterfly appears, which stresses its importance. “Tell me…. to lie” is a question to the guilty relation of the speaker. This part of the song says “Tell me what it was like to charge the innocent with your crime and have Robert go to jail for it, and have us lie to ourselves and everyone”. The speaker uses “breaks a butterfly” to show the ludicrousness of harming an innocent by having that one absorb the guilt. The climax of the song, “Sometimes… around me” is a very powerful moment. The remaining verses of the song show the consequences of this event. The speaker admits that this event forced him to change who he looked up to (“all my heroes are dying around me”). He says that he constantly dreams, and hopes that when he dies he will finally find some reason in all that has happened (“And all my answers…steadied by reason”). He decides that he will “cut” himself so that he will have no self, and can break from “burning stretched within”. His quest for understanding of his self in light of the event is the idea that finishes the song. He contemplates on it further (“I spent a long day…breathing it out”), but the slow pace of the song at the end makes me think that he is deciding to slowly forget about the trouble the event caused him.

In this musical work, the appearance of the butterfly gave me the idea that this song is a story about a crime and its effects. Without the butterfly, and the association to innocence I have gathered from other works, I would never have thought to interpret the song in that way. Using Wikipedia and finally learning what a loan shark was also helped me. Yay. Thank you, motif.

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