Social Issues and Contexts of Iris: Overview & Analysis Essay

Poetry as a form of literature has several features and components. One of such has to do with the reasons behind which a poet would choose a particular title, theme and poetic content (quote). Whiles reading Iris by Mark Jarman, one gets a sense of strong purpose of writing for which the writer tries to use his work to address key social issues and premises. Generally, poets are seen as people who do not only entertain the social world with their great works of poetic literature but also use their medium to join in the discussions of everyday social events and this was something that Mark Jarman did with so professionalism and academic touch. According to a reviewer (quote), “right from the start of the poem, a very good and discerning reader would notice a deviation from the regular structure and trend of a typical American poem”. Though this deviation does not give the poem the usual flow associated with contemporary poetry, it is said to have played the purpose of establishing a firm social context very well. At least, with the approach adopted by the writer, he was able to use several linguistic techniques to bring the attention of readers to the need to be concerned about some social issues that are fast creeping into a contemporary social syndrome. So even though the structure and makeup of the poem its self may not have a strong contemporary background, it was highly successful in addressing the modern-day variation of social topics. Some of the means by which the poet did this in Iris included the use of a woman as the key character, the use of the theme of social abuse, the use of imagery and finally the use of incoherent writing pattern.

Use of woman as a key character

It is common knowledge, backed with state and federal evidence that women are the worse affected when it comes to issues of social deprivation and abuse (quote). In 1992 when Mark Jarman wrote Iris, such as social deprivation and abuse against women were at their peak in the American setting in which he wrote the poem. Using a woman as the key character of the poem was, therefore, an important approach in getting his message through and to the right target group. Somehow, the writer was making a conscious effort in drawing the attention of authorities to the neglected roles that they were expected to play for the woman in ensuring that the woman had a very sound social environment within which to operate. The characterization of women in the poem was also a satire against some of the social injustice that women can emit out to their fellow women. So the writer wrote:
“I watched her fold them in a daze,
But then I hurried after my mad sister.
I saw her pounding on the strange woman’s car door.
The woman was in the car – it looked like she was living” (Jarman, 1992: 109).
Indeed, there were women who were responsible for the torture and torment that their fellow women went through and this was going to be an issue that the writer wanted public authorities to be aware of. Finally, there was the use of women as characters, and particularly the use of an abused woman as a key character to empower women that they could have the world of their freedom in their own hands and so needed to rise above their challenges.

The theme of Social Unrest

In their review, Good Reads (2012) put their description of social unrest that met Iris as a character right by saying that “IRIS is the story of a woman who refuses to be crushed by the sordid circumstances of her life – the poverty and drugs, the violence and un-redemptive love.” Indeed, such characteristics of social unrest have been very common in our contemporary world and in the world in which the writer lived in at the time of writing. Poverty, for example, has been a social issue that socialists say have been treated with the wrong approach and so continues to leverage against masses of the society (quote). As portrayed in the poem, the real value of wealth has been made to be the privilege of some very few people and the gap between such rich people and the poor continues to widen by the day. As a social analyst using the tool of a poem, the writer, therefore, saw the need to address the issue head-on using his medium of expression. The social issue of drug abuse and misuse were also highlighted in the poem and with this, the writer was highly emphatic with his stand on the issue of a drug as he stated that
“To sit with Mama. Or to the police station to answer a question. It was simple To say, “Yes it could have been drug-related.” Mama would know, but Mama couldn’t talk.” (Jarman, 1992: 40).
From the above, we see a strong sense of legal justice being expressed by the writer on the need to direct all drug-related cases to the police for appropriate legal actions to be taken on them.

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