Poem Analysis: More About People

Pictured above: Ogden Nash

The theme of this poem is that the people who slack off at work irritate those who do work hard. The people who receive the majority of Nash’s scorn are the employers, as he states “They employ you”. This course of action is very ironic, because those that do not want to work will never earn enough money to not be able to work. This effectively creates a paradox for those slackers in the workplace. This critical point of view on humanity is reminiscent of themes in many of Nash’s poems. This take on humanity is part of what makes Nash such a well-known poet.

The tone the Nash takes on in this poem is very critical, but also very ironic. He looks at the aspect of how even though some people work much harder than others, they only get paid the same amount, if not less, depending on they’re position in the company. Even though employers do not seem to work as hard as many employees, they get paid more money. Irony is a key element is most of Nash’s works. Another common element that Nash uses in his poems is humour, which is portrayed by the satirical approach he takes in criticizing humanity.

In his poem, Nash brings up three names: Firestone, Ford, and Edison. These three people are all very successful business people, with Henry Ford being the late founder of the Ford Motor Company, Harvey Firestone, who was the founder of the Firestone Tire and Rubber Company, and Thomas Edison, the inventor of the phonograph and the light bulb.

The comparison here is that employers and just generally people who try to motivate the workers tell them to look at famous inventors and founders, who were very successful because they put a lot of effort into their inventions.

He states at the beginning of the poem that “When people aren't asking questions they're making suggestions”. This is a reference to how even though the people are ignorant (why they ask questions) they still believe that they should be the ones giving the orders (making suggestions).

Poetic Devices
One poetic device that is used is a euphemism. Nash uses the word “displeasure” to describe how the workers must feel about their employers’ actions. Another poetic device that is used is a metaphor. Nash states that work is “a wonderful medicine”. While the employers that tell you this they most likely use it in a serious fashion. However, when Nash uses this statement, he gives it a more satirical and sarcastic tone, as he obviously does not agree that work is a great way to keep up your mental health.

A third poetic device that is used in this poem is “lecture you till they're out of breath”. This statement is a hyperbole, because it is likely that the speaker will not be completely out of breath when they are finished talking to you. However, this statement does impress upon the reader that the speaker is obviously passionate about what he is saying, although whether it is relevant to the situation or not is another story. Another hyperbole is used in the next line, which states “then if you don't succumb they starve you to death”. Once again, it is highly unlikely that the employer will starve his employees to death if they do not take his lecture into account. The employer does, however, have the ability to lower the employee’s pay, which could cause the employee to go bankrupt, indirectly “starving” them.

Nash also uses some interesting diction. “Irking” is a rather obscure word. Irk, the root of irking, is defined as “to annoy or bother”. From this the reader can assume that Nash uses this word in place of words such as “annoying” or “bothersome”. Nash is well known for using strange or obscure diction is his poems, and the word irking is a fine example of such a word.

Ogden Nash uses a simple form of rhyme scheme, with an interesting twist on the rhythm. He uses a simple AA BB CC rhyme scheme, but he has no set rhythm in the length of his lines.

And then as if that weren't enough to annoy you A
They employ you. A
Anybody at leisure B
Incurs everybody's displeasure. B
It seems to be very irking C
To people at work to see other people not working, C

He rhymes a line such as “And then as if that weren't enough to annoy you” which is eleven syllables long with a line such as “They employ you”, which is only three syllables long. He also has a tendency to repeat words in his rhyme scheme. For example, he rhymes the word “you” with “you”, and the word “something” with “something”.
Some might see this as laziness on his part, or cheating. While this is not cheating, it could still be mistaken for laziness. However, this laziness is justified, as it portrays his thoughts regarding the feelings of the employees towards their employers. The employers described in this poem are seen as oppressive, annoying, lazy people with whom the employees hold only contempt for, and nothing else.

There is another bit of irony in this poem as well, where Nash writes “They're either looking over your shoulder or stepping on your toes”. What Nash means by this is that the employers seem to either be edging the employees on, making them work harder, or they seem to be hindering them in some way. This is very contradictory.