In the poem Little Feet (1945) by Gabriela Mistral (1889-1957) we see how children are walking barefoot without anyone noticing them. The mentioning of cold and snow make it appears to be winters and snowy as the time of the year. The poem is not only written in English but also in Spanish. In general, the poem talks about children in poverty who are being ignored by the society. The theme of alienation can be seen throughout the poem, the poverty-stricken children who are suffering just because they are poor, and the bitter truth is nobody cares to help them or provide them with the basic necessities of life.
The author is criticizing the society for the damage they are doing to these children.
The title of the poem Little Feet itself gives the reader the idea that it is about children and there might be something related to the feet of the children. There is nothing symbolic in the title and it can be understood easily with literal understanding as it gives the direct meaning of the poem itself.
The poem has no set meter and is written in free verse overall and there are no such rhymes in the poem. The first stanza starts with Little feet of children / blue with cold (1-2) telling us about how the children our suffering this cold weather because of having no shoes due to poverty and no one is ready to help them. and further we can say that the mentioning of GOD makes the speaker a religious person who is turning to God while she is in grief and hopeless from the society for not helping these tiny souls and rejecting them.
The poem has six stanzas in total all of them having some sort of emotions and views of the speaker. In the beginning of the poem, the author seems heartbroken and hopeless. She is having a bitter tone throughout the poem. The use of particular images and the focus on childrens feet throughout reminds us that the image in the poem is worth studying which applies the Visual mode to the poem for example stanza two begins with her focusing on the wounded feet of the children as she says, Little wounded feet / cut all of them by pebbles, / outraged by snow / and mire!(5-8). The use of visual and imagery mode is there to makes us feel and imagine the pain these children are going through and to make us realize that this pain is not just because they are hurt but also because nobody cares about them.
Moving forward, the use of Blind man ignores / that where you walk, / a flower of living light / you leave: (9-12) conveys that because everyone turn their backs on them even after looking at them walking barefoot, they are being called blind by her for overlooking these innocent souls and turning blind eye on them. She further says by doing so the society is destroying their own future because all these steps they take to just get accepted can be the steps towards success if they are given a chance of having a better life which every child deserves to have no matter if they are poor or rich. These children are our future and for them to prove themselves or to have a bright future they need proper care and attention but unfortunately no one understands and seeing all of this gives her pain.
At last, she is getting a little hopeful not from the society but from the children themselves who are fearlessly walking without giving up seeking a better life. She compared childrens feet with jewels by using a metaphor trying to emphasis on how children our jewels and like any precious jewel they need to be protected as well because they are our greatest asset but unfortunately the harsh reality is these poor kids are being ignored and walked pass by.
Although the visual mode is applied because of the use of images throughout but because the theme of the poem is used to understand the poem the Thematic mode also applies to this poem. The author is trying to create awareness in the people to protect the children in poverty and provide them with a better life which they deserver rather than neglecting them and taking them for granted. She has used powerful words and images to make the readers feel the pain of these children, the pain that she is going through when she sees them being undervalued just because of being poor which they cannot be blamed for because it is not their fault.