‘This is Going to Hurt Just a Little Bit’ by Ogden Nash is a humorous poem filled with exaggerations, puns and metaphors. It is a hilarious description of the whole experience of sitting in a dental chair which causes the poet great agony.
The poet considers sitting in the dentist’s chair the worst torture a man can undergo. Some tortures are physical and some are mental. But the only torture that combines both is dental. Whoever you are, you lose all your calm, cheerfulness and dignity when you sit in the dentist’s chair with your mouth wide open and your jaw digging into your chest.
To bring out the horror of dental treatment, the poet makes a few comparisons that are outrageously hilarious and exaggerated. He compares his mouth being worked on to a road being repaired. All his nerves are being irked on by the noise and he feels that the dentist is using stone crushers, concrete mixers, drills, and steam rollers. He also compares a dentist to a bear, because the dentist mauls and suffocates him like a bear suffocating its prey. Moreover, he feels that the dentist is approaching him with a crowbar.
According to the poet the use of mirrors for dental treatment is the most terrifying thing about it. He fears that the lateral inversion in the mirror may cause the doctor to confuse the right side for the left.
After the treatment the patient sighs in relief to hear that it was all. But then, the dentist coats the mouth with something that resembles the polish used on a horse’s hoof. The last nail on the coffin is when the dentist tells him to come back in three months.
In the end, the poet feels that having to visit the dentist again and again is the most vicious circle that fate sends him. He feels that he can never get out of it. The paradox is that he wants his teeth in good condition only to keep the dentist away. He hopes it is only for once, but it becomes a cyclical process.
The comic effect of the poem is achieved through exaggerations. Sitting in the dentist’s chair is viewed as something that may change the course of one’s life. The tension makes you scratch your palm with your fingernails so hard that even your lifeline may get altered. Puns and wordplay abound in the poem. It is evident in word pairs such as mental-dental, polished-demolished, hope-hopen, etc.
Doctors always say, “This is going to hurt just a little bit” to soothe their patients before some painful treatment. Nevertheless, the patient knows that it is going to be painful. The title of the poem takes a humorous turn when the readers realize that Nash may be actually telling the same to the dentist. He warns the dentist that the poem may hurt him a little bit, but when the ‘treatment’ is finished, the dentist realizes that he has been delivered a fatal blow.