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A Perfectly Good Heart: Heartbreak or Brainbreak?


The Basics

Swift’s heart is broken. She is confused why her partner would “want to break a perfectly good heart” and she asks a lot of questions.


Literary Device: Cross-Rhyme

The chorus of A Perfectly Good Heart contains a real smorgasbord of literary devices including anaphora (see Should’ve Said No) and cross-rhyme. Cross-rhyme occurs when words in the middle of each line rhyme:


Why would you wanna break a perfectly good heart?

Why would you wanna take our love and tear it all apart now?

Why would you wanna make the very first scar?

Why would you wanna break a perfectly good heart?


Swift doubly emphasizes these words by placing them directly after a repeated phrase and making them rhyme. All four of the emphasized words are action verbs that apply to the person who broke her heart. Although Swift may not understand why, she understands who and highlights the active role that this person played in her heartbreak - an active role that is in sharp contrast with the passive, questioning way she portrays herself in the song.


Analysis

The entire song is an excavation of another literary device: the common metaphor of a broken heart. Swift contrasts the image of a broken heart with what it must have been before: a perfectly good heart. After a relationship ends, a heart is broken, torn apart, and scarred. Before, it was “perfectly good”: “unbroken” and unscarred. Swift asks “how do I get it back the way it was before?” knowing that she cannot. Although a scar may fade, it is a permanent alteration.


Swift’s song hints at the possibility that the heart may not be the only organ that is altered by the end of a relationship. Swift has explored the theme of sight and lack thereof in two songs on the album already: Teardrops on my Guitar and Invisible. This time, it is Swift who is looking but not seeing. She provides three examples of when her eyes failed her:

  • Maybe I should’ve seen the signs

  • Should’ve read the writing on the wall

  • Realized by the distance in your eyes

Swift did not see that this relationship was nearing its end. Swift has similar problems with her ears. She writes: “No matter what you say I still can’t believe / That you would walk away.” Swift’s brain is rejecting the empirical evidence of her eyes and ears. Indeed, the entire song illustrates Swift’s inability to comprehend what is happening: sixteen of the twenty-three lines are questions.


Through A Perfectly Good Heart, Swift thus illustrates how the human body is altered at the end of a relationship: the metaphorical alteration of a heartbreak and the actual alteration of the brain to a state of disconnect, confusion, and denial.

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