(Spoiler Alert: If you’ve not yet seen the movies The Sixth Sense, The Others, and Fight Club, 1) you should, and 2) you might want to skip this post til you do–some secrets vital to these movies are revealed below.)
We see it often in the movies: the characters we think we know turn out to be radically different from what we had thought. In The Sixth Sense, Dr. Malcolm Crowe (the child psychologist played by Bruce Willis) turns out to be a ghost. In The Others, Grace Stewart (the mother played by Nicole Kidman) also turns out to be a ghost. In Fight Club, the narrator (played by Edward Norton) turns out to be Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt).
And so, prompted by some comments from Avi Akshoti over at the Structure & Surprise “Welcome!” page (thank you, Avi!), I gotta ask: are there poems that employ this kind of turn? That is, are there poems in which the person you thought was the speaker turns out to be someone else entirely?
Now, of course, a lot of poems record a substantial change in a speaker–just check out the Dejection-Elation Structure or the Descriptive-Meditative Structure, or read Coleridge’s “This Lime-Tree Bower, My Prison,” a poem that combines these two structures beautifully, recording the speaker’s transition from despondency to joyfullness.
But this isn’t what Avi was, and now I am, asking for: what we want to know is: are there poems with speakers who turn out, in a surprising turn as radical as that found it The Sixth Sense, The Others, and Fight Club, to be radically different from what we expected? If so, what are these poems? (Please DO feel free to reply.) If not, 1) write one and send it in, or else 2) theorize why this kind of poem has not been written.
The closest I can get to this kind of poem is Margaret Atwood’s “This Is a Photograph of Me,” a poem in which the speaker turns out to be dead…