Friday, June 21, 2013

Analysis of "Boy at the Window" by Richard Wilbur

Original poem reprinted online here: "Boy at the Window" by Richard Wilbur
Originally read: March 6, 2013
More information about the Poet:  Richard Wilbur




Alternating rhyme scheme in an octave form.  There's a loose iamb and meter, but it's mostly iambic pentameter.  And when I see a form like this, I think that both stanza work similarly like the first part of the Italian sonnet -- the questioning part, rather than the sestet -- the answering part.  And I think most importantly there shouldn't be a volta, that sharp turn which changes the subject or gets to a point.

I'm not writing that this poem doesn't have a point -- rather the question is the point, right?

However, the first part of the poem borders on the sentimental (I keep writing borders, but one day I'll actually state that 'this is sentimental') because the whole scene in the couple of lines is a boy weeping seeing his creation -- a snow man -- melt in the rain.  Also there are techniques that bring humor, "Seeing the snowman standing," usually rhyme plus alliteration foreshadows humor, and on top of that add in "The small boy weeps to hear the wind prepare"  a overreaction of a boy, then the poem starts off a bit awkward.

I'll admit there was a part of me that was like "next."  Yes, losing something is sad, but...well...losing something is sad.  I don't think someone is going to go the opposite -- losing is something is great (unless being overly optimistic or cynical).  I especially don't think a young kid would say losing something is great.  However, this line -- although heavy handed with symbol, made me curious of the poem, "Returns hims such a god-forsaken stare / As outcast Adam gave to Paradise."  So these lines pretty much comes out of nowhere.

The personification is forced.  The snowman takes on the attributes like "god-forsaken stare as outcast Adam gave to Paradise."  A very Prometheus (to mix religion and/or mythology together) imagery.  Meaning that a person had to sacrifice something in order for forward momentum -- Prometheus with fire, Adam (accidentally) with knowledge, and so too this Snowman with...

Nothing actually.  The snowman is "moved to see the youngster cry."  This could either be a) a projection from the boy to have his creation appear to be as sad as him (somewhat likely, but this poem is written in third person).  b) an absurd personification to add to the humor of the poem -- in which the allusion to Adam is more of a humorous aside c) overly symbolism -- or the physical manifestation of maturity -- where the the snowman represents lofty ideals that the boy is learning at this moment.

Maybe all three.

In any case, I find the last five lines are the core of the poem:

     Though frozen water is his element.
     He melts enough to drop from one soft eye.
     A trickle of the purest rain, a tear
     For the child at the bright pane surrounded by
     Such warmth, such light, such love, and so much fear.

In the first couple of lines there's the play of the rain actually causing the tear or somehow the snowman anthropomorphizes and actually creates a tear of "the purest rain."  And pure hear is meant to either be taken sincere or cynical -- I don't think there's a middle ground here for the child (note this poem is called "Boy at the Window"  there's already a separation in place between the boy, but the focus is always the boy).

And with the focus on the boy, who is going through a young creation crisis (what he makes will be eventually be destroyed) there's a focus of his surroundings.  The place is someplace safe and loving, but who is the fear directed to -- the environment, the people living inside, the boy?  Maybe all of it?  Either way the last emotion is contrasting to the whole sentiment of the scene as though the poem, if going further, will have to deal with the emotion in the poem or, "Having no wish to go inside and die."

So the question, I think, is what does a person do when their creation doesn't work and there's no way to save it, and, doesn't want to be saved because such change, such death needs to happen?

1 comment:

  1. Dang, dude, you've seriously misunderstood some basic elements of this poem. You might want to take another stab at it.

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