The Cinnamon Peeler Essay Research Paper

The Cinnamon Peeler Essay, Research Paper

“I am the cinnamon peeler’s wife. Smell me” (ll. 45-46). “The Cinnamon

Peeler”, written by Michael Ondaatje, is a story of the relationship between a cinnamon

peeler and his wife. Ondaatje uses excessive imagery as to allow his readers to

visualize the interactions between this husband and wife. In the first few stanzas off the

poem, Ondaatje conveys to his audience the power that this said cinnamon smell can

hold. Towards the middle of the poem, the nuisance of such a fragrant smell is

expressed. At the conclusion of his poem, Ondaatje shows the importance and need for

the cinnamon smell to exist in this couple’s relationship.

“You will be known among strangers as the cinnamon peeler’s wife” (ll. 17-18).

The very first stanza of this poem represents the cinnamon smell the peeler carries with

him wherever he goes. There is a yellow bark dust that he carries with him and leaves

some on his wifes pillow (ll. 3-4). In the next stanza, the reader is introduced to the

peeler’s wife, no name is given and she is known strictly as the cinnamon peeler’s wife.

She has absorbed the fragrance of cinnamon from her husband and cannot rid herself of

the scent, not even in a monsoon (l. 11). Even strangers, along with the blind, know by

her smell she is the wife of the cinnamon peeler (ll. 8 & 17). The odour of cinnamon is

strong and powerful. It is difficult to lessen the smell, even in the slightest.

“I could hardly glance at you before marriage, never touch you” (ll. 19-21).

Before marriage to his wife, the cinnamon peeler had to be extremly cautious around

her as to not allow her to absorb the smell. Her “keen-nosed mother” and “rough

brothers” (l. 22), would surely smell the spice and have no doubt in their minds who it

was that had been near their daughter and sister. The peeler would attempt to disguise

the scent by burying his hands in saffron or over top of smoking tar (ll. 24-25). At last,

they discovered a place where they could be together and there would not be that

powerful, lingering cinnamon smell. “I touched you in water and our bodies remained

free, you could hold me and be blind of smell” (ll. 28-30). The peeler’s wife soon

asked him if he had been doing this all along with other women, much less likely to be

caught in the act of cheating when his scent could be disguised (ll. 32-33). At times,

this cinnamon smell would become bothersome.

“And you searched your arms for the missing perfume, and knew, what good is

it to be the lime burner’s daughter, left with no trace, as if not spoken to in the act of

love, as if wounded without the pleasure of a scar” (ll. 37-41). The peeler’s wife enjoys

their love as a marriage, represented and presented for the whole world to smell in the

fragrance of cinnamon they both carry with them. Like an animal that would mark its

territory, the peeler’s wife carries a strong scent that shows she shares a life with that

of the peeler. She appreciates the odour only for the fact that it represents the love

they share.

This telling of a cinnamon peeler and his wife indeed conveys the strength, the

nuisance and the importance of the cinnamon scent in these two people’s lives.

More so, Michael Ondaatje wanted to tell more then a story about a cinnamon peeler,

he wanted to tell a story of a loving relationship. He wanted to talk about the strength

of love, the nuisance of love, and the importance of love. Ondaatje wanted to show

that love is not always perfect. Love is a powerful, complex emotion fully able to take

on the scent of cinnamon. “I am the cinnamon peeler’s wife. Smell me” (ll. 45-46).

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