16 pages 32 minutes read

Derek Walcott

Love After Love

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1976

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Symbols & Motifs

Eating the Meal

The meal is one of the central motifs in “Love After Love.” Walcott uses the idea of “breaking bread” in order to stimulate a reunion and “conversation” between the reader and their internal “self.” Throughout the poem, the speaker gives multiple orders to “sit here. Eat” (Line 6). The heart, or middle, of the poem even directly states, “Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart,” (Line 8) making the return to the self a complete meal, with the “heart” as the entrée. In this sense, the ”heart” becomes a metaphor for love itself, and the wine and bread are just precursors to the most important aspect of self-actualization: self-love and understanding. A meal is something that should be enjoyed, and the speaker counsels the reader to forget the romantic love lost and focus instead on thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Gazing in the Mirror

Walcott uses the mirror as a motif; when he introduces the mirror in the poem, it is used as a means of cutting the reader into two separate halves or “selves”: “you will greet yourself arriving / at your own door, in your own mirror / and each will smile at the other's welcome” (Lines 3-5). Only by separating “you” into two halves is Walcott fully able to address the concept of finding and loving yourself.