The sample essay on Marriage Gregory Corso deals with a framework of research-based facts, approaches and arguments concerning this theme. To see the essay’s introduction, body paragraphs and conclusion, read on.
Pie Glue: The Sanctimonious Institution of Marriage Gregory Corso’s poem “Marriage” is a lucid example of how John Clellon Holmes described the Beat Generation: a display of “moral degeneration. ” The speaker of the poem is torn between submitting to the non-conformity of the Beats and conforming to society’s strict views about marriage and social structure.
The presence of conflicting thoughts- whether or not to get married and looking at the prospects of marriage from two different viewpoints, gives this satirical poem a lot of weight as a plea against the phony social construction that is marriage.
The poem starts off with questions that are not, under usual circumstances asked by young eligible men. Yet these rhetorical questions seem to have the answers, sarcastic and satirical answers hidden in them.
The speaker of the poem, a young man, ponders if he should “be good” (line 1). Being “good” is what everybody expects you to be, and the definition of this “good” that is talked about has nothing to do with morality. Rather, being good is just the action of conforming to society’s expectations of one’s actions and behavior.
He contemplates what a date with him would be like. He would take the lady to a cemetery as opposed to the movies and talk about abominations such as werewolves and “forked clarinets”, which is probably a reference to the Devil’s forked tongue.
And then, as any man would, he would “desire her and kiss her and all the preliminaries” (line 5) of foreplay. But as he would be about to advance further she, being a good girl, would stop him from going any further. He, being like any young man of age, would want sex.
He would try to convince her, “You must feel! It’s beautiful to feel! ”(line 7). He would try to coerce her with words, coerce her into giving in. He would eventually “be good” once more and refrain from having her. Instead, he would lay with her by a tombstone and look at the beauty of the starry sky. Once again, what he describes here is conventional romantic behavior that is expected by a young eligible gentleman. As hard as he tries, he seems to unintentionally spiral towards convention.
He moves on in his imagination about what it would be like if things worked out fine and he and “the girl next door” (line 2) took their relationship to the next level: meeting the parents. In order to win their approval, he would certainly have to have his “back straightened, hair finally combed, strangled by a tie” (line 11). In this line and the lines that follow, the speaker of the poem is quite candid in his disapproval of the social norms and rituals of courtship and parental approval.
He quite reluctantly sits “with his knees together” (line 12) and tries not to ask where the bathroom is in fear it would be a faux-pas. He asserts that it is just as hard for the other party, the parents to conform to this seemingly absurd social ritual. They have to sit across from a strange young man who would steal the innocence of their daughter “Mary Lou” (line 19). All this while, all that the speaker of the poem was thinking about was whether or not ask where the bath room is and occasionally entertaining himself with absurd and amusing thoughts such as “Flash Gordon soap” (line 15).
Over “tea and homemade cookies” (line 20) they make small conversation to fill up the awkward silence. If the young man is deemed suitable, the parents happily give away their daughter to a young man who was a stranger not an hour ago. They ask what he does for a living, and he asks himself rhetorical questions: “Should I tell them? Would they like me then? ” (line 21). He then ponders what the highly important, yet redundant wedding day would be like. The wedding is a big deal for the bride, so obviously a lot of her relatives and friends would be there.
He, on the other hand would only have a few socially awkward friends to invite. And yet all these guests would be impatiently waiting “to get at the drinks and food” (line 28). The priest, probably from the bride’s church, knowing the bride’s innocence looks accusingly at the groom, thinking he had given in to carnal desires and turned to masturbation, an activity commonly regarded as sinful. And under all the pressure created by this social scenario, when the priest asks “Do you take this woman for your lawful wedded wife? (line 29) he hesitates and blurts out “Pie Glue” (line 30) which rhymes with the more commonly used term “I do”.
Kirby Olson, in his book The Doubting Thomist, reads the poem as many others have read it: as Corso’s outburst against hackneyed social rituals, but he also adds some interesting observations. He notes how “Pie Glue” rhymes with the more commonly used phrase “I do” and also claims that this apparent non-sense outburst is in fact a cry of fear, fear of being stuck with one woman (“hairy pie” being a term used for a vagina) for the rest of his life.
Once the inessential ceremonies of the wedding are over, all the young men would pat him on the back and offer their obscene congratulations and send the newlyweds off to a honeymoon to a cliched honeymoon spot where dozens of other newly bonded couples go “to do the same thing”(line 39) consummate their marriage. This is common knowledge, everyone does it, and everyone knows that: “The indifferent clerk…/ the lobby zombies…/ the whistling elevator man…/ the winking bellboy…/ everybody” (lines 40 – 43).
Here the poet repetitively uses the words “The…knowing”, bringing emphasis that the actions of the honeymooners are common knowledge and almost taken for granted as a chore, a duty to be performed as opposed to a beautiful expression of love. The use of anaphora strengthens his point. At this point the speaker of the poem is frustrated by thinking about the hackneyed constraints of such a social bondage and convinces himself that he would not do the same things as the other honeymooner were doing; instead he would “Stay up all night! Stare that hotel clerk in the eye! / Screaming: I deny honeymoon!
I deny honeymoon! / running rampant into those almost climactic suites/ yelling Radio belly! Cat shovel! ” (lines 45-48). He would be the demon of marriage, the advocate of divorce, a stereotypical madman who would warn the newly weds of the traps they have fallen into and the impending misfortunes they are about to face. Even in being a loner, an iconoclast, the poet fails to describe something new, he fails in his efforts to describe a nonconformist to the idea of marriage and ends up describing just another common social icon: the pariah, the crazy man that people try to believe does not exist.
In beginning of the 5th paragraph, the speaker of the poem tries to imagine what a blissful married life would be like, what it would be like to be loved, to “How nice it’d be to come home to her/ and sit by the fireplace and she in the kitchen/ aproned young and lovely”(lines 53-55). He tries to imagine what it would be like to live a calm, quiet married life would be like. He ends up imagining a life where the most exciting part of his day would the wife burning the roast.
The serene scene of quiet, peaceful family life lasts but only a few moments before he starts to think of the absurdities once more: “Christmas teeth! Radiant brains! Apple deaf! ” (line 59). Sarcastic comments follow. He tells of how he would do all kinds of unusual things, say weird things to strangers who come to his house, how he would paste stamps on the fence. He also thinks of alternate scenes, different stereotypes of married life: a small house in snow-covered Connecticut, with a lot of babies or in tiny apartment in New York City.
How would his life be then? All he could think of was how hackneyed, boring his life would be. He does however see himself in New York, living in a beautiful penthouse with a great view, with a beautiful, smart and sophisticated wife, but he didn’t believe he could be tied up and “married to that pleasant prison dream-” (line 102). What is it then that drives people to get married and live this grueling lifestyle we call marriage?
The thoughts of love appear only towards the very end of the poem, he wonders whether he should get married, conform to the very institution that disgusts him so, and call it a sacrifice for his love; he wonders what he would do if marriage was the only option left for him to be with the one he loves. Although marriage is thought of as the ultimate commitment to love, the two have nothing in common. The speaker knows he would be willing to sacrifice some and conform to social norms only if he meets “the one” for him.
In his book on Corso’s works Gregory Stephenson reads into the poem and realizes that the poet was, at the end of the poem, reminds the readers that marriage is in fact the ultimate act of physical and emotional attraction between two people, and not the phony religious bondage that it has become. The fact that all through the poem the speaker dismisses the very concept of marriage and yet claims he would willingly wait 2000 years for a loved one is proof of the poet’s belief of love and the cleft between love and marriage. The entire poem is in essence a hopeful, romantic love poem.