Wallace Stevens


In “The Snow Man”, Stevens emphasizes the importance of perspective. Some people may look at this picture of a snowy day, and see an opportunity to have fun: snowball fights, sledding, building snowmen. Others may look at the same scene and see an annoyance: frostbite, trudging through mountains of snow to get to school or work, shoveling  it in their front yards. As Stevens says, “one must have the mind of winter” (1) in order to have a positive outlook on the snow. Our perspective shapes the way we see the world, and what we make of life.

The speaker in “Sunday Morning” seems to be in the middle of a religious funk. It’s Sunday, and she is enjoying a relaxing morning (Easy Like Sunday Morning). She can’t decide whether or not to feel guilty about missing church. She doesn’t think about God very much, but she likes the idea of a blissful heaven. But she also thinks that Earthly nature is just fine, and maybe she doesn’t really need to worry about going to heaven. Maybe she would be happier if she just lived in the moment, and didn’t worry about the past or the future. The line “Death is the mother of beauty” (lines 63 and 89) is repeated twice, so it must be important, but I’m not really sure what to make of it.

There’s a lot going on in this poem, and it’s pretty difficult to unpack. But from what I got from it, the speaker was having doubts about whether or not to continue practicing Christianity. I can relate to this. I was raised Christian – dragged to church every Sunday and CCD every Wednesday for the bulk of my childhood. As a child, I never really thought to doubt the teachings of my religion, but as I grew older, I began to question whether I really wanted to be Christian and live by Christian ideals. Do I want to raise my future children with Christianity? It’s definitely something I’ll have to think about.

In “Anecdote of the Jar”, a jar is placed on a hill and proceeds to take over the world. The poem alternates between depicting the jar as something to be feared (“it took dominion everywhere”)  and something pretty ordinary  (“the jar was gray and bare”) (10). I interpreted the jar as representing human-made objects that are taking over the beauty of the natural world.

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