Thursday, December 12, 2013

Analysis of "The Swiss Family Robinson" by Ron Padgett

Original poem reprinted online here: "The Swiss Family Robinson" by Ron Padgett
Originally read: June 17, 2013
More information about the Poet: Ron Padgett



The confusion of language.  In the first half of the poem focuses how language can dissuade a reader from reading; furthermore, the focus of language is described as simple as possible.

The speaker admits he "never quite understood / the Swiss Family Robinson were."  Note the construction of the sentence with the verb last which usually defies syntactical convention (Subject -> Verb -> Object).  And by writing syntactically like this, the speaker foreshadows his own misunderstanding.

     The inversion of their name
     confused me at an early age,
     just as the name Mary baker Eddy
     sounded as though she started out
     as a woman and turned into
     a guy named Eddy.

There's humor here mostly based on the comparison the speaker makes.  Yes, there's the urge to look at the references to the names and the background of the novel, "The Swiss Family Robinson," and the Christian Scientist, "Mary Baker Eddy."  However, the speaker disallows the reader's to venture that route due to the focus of language and the absurdity (at least how the speaker sees it in my opinion) of inversion.

Note that there is no judgement on the absurdity (good or bad) rather a observation.  And with the next part, the focus is on assumption.  The speaker is assuming:
    
     At Walt
     Disney World there is an attraction
     called Swiss Family Robinson that
     involves a tree house, so I assume
     they lived in a tree.

Past me wrote down, "Humor in the construction: *name, *production of the book, *reproduction of normalcy"  It's not normalcy, but a scene, a reproduced scene. 

The speaker then goes on to judging the reproduction, "It sounds rather / stressful to me, the fear / of falling out."  Again, not about the story, language and reproduction.

Then the next lines plays with irony:

     I could look up
     the Swiss Familiy Robinson
     in a reference book, but
     it's interesting not to know
     something that everyone else knows.

The irony here is that his interpretations based on language and reproduction is what I find interesting and produces "poems"; however, the assumption on the other side is that they know the novel and produce "attractions."

The poem ends with, again, a focus on language where the speaker would like to know "if there / are many people named Robinson / in Switzerland."  and by know thing, "I would know something that / most people don't know."  Note how the speaker uses "Swiss" as an adjective.  I don't know the story myself, but I do remember the Disney movie long time ago.  So I don't know if they were Swiss.

Anyway, besides this point the speaker is reinterpreting the name through language, observation and assumption and freely admits that.  Meanwhile, there's reproductions and attractions that assume that people "know" the work.  I don't know anything.

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