Introduction & Overview of Three To's and an Oi

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Three To's and an Oi Summary & Study Guide Description

Three To's and an Oi Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Bibliography on Three To's and an Oi by Heather McHugh.

“Three To's and an Oi” is in Heather McHugh's 1999 poetry collection, The Father of the Predicaments. The title of the book comes from a line in “Not a Prayer,” one of the other poems in the collection: “The father of the / predicaments, wrote Aristotle's translator, is being.” In “Three To's and an Oi,” McHugh focuses on death and language, referring to the story of Cassandra, the woman to whom the god Apollo grants the power to see the future but then curses with the burden of never having her accurate predictions believed. The play Agamemnon, by the Greek dramatist Aeschylus (525-456 b.c.e. ), depicts Cassandra as knowing that she is about to be murdered and wailing “otototoi.” The title “Three To's and an Oi” refers to words that do not seem to be in the poem, but they appear in this focal word, “otototoi.” The presence of the “to's” and the “oi” is obscured because the “oi” is broken up, so that its o comes at the start of the poem and its i comes at the end. The poem questions why translators felt the need to render this cry “woe is me,” when it is clearly just the sort of emotional outburst, or “baby talk,” that people use when meaningful words are not adequate.

For years, McHugh has been one of America's most celebrated poets, with a list of major honors and awards that few poets could ever approach. In “Three To's and an Oi,” as in most of her poetry, McHugh combines a rich sense of language and culture with a sly sense of humor, working a basic premise and its ramifications while more and more associations come to light. Using a delicate and deliberate style, McHugh takes the poem from dread to love, from infancy to maturity, from Aeschylus to the Bible, and from emotion to definition, all within a few short lines.

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This section contains 319 words
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