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An Analysis Of Stevens' "Sunday Morning"

2073 words - 9 pages

Transcendentalism, a spiritual, philosophical, and literary movement, flourished during the mid-nineteenth century in response to a major disagreement within the Unitarian Church. Boston ministers at the time thought that the church was too conservative, so they established a new philosophy honoring individual wisdom over religion. Although this philosophy, Transcendentalism, received its inspiration from European Romanticism, it became a unique American movement emphasizing individualism. Indeed, with the rampant materialism stemming from the Industrial Revolution, many Transcendentalists encouraged individuals to seek a solitary and harmonious relationship with nature. Wallace Stevens, ...view middle of the document...

Yet despite this apparent regularity, Wallace takes multiple freedoms with his word choice; indeed, by writing in blank verse and not expressing his thoughts in rhyme, Wallace creates a more thoughtful, serious tone consistent with his deep and riveting analysis of nature, as opposed to a more lyrical and light-hearted one. Clearly, the poem’s format remains consistent with its thoughtful religious content.
As a whole, the poem partakes in a question-and-answer structure. This structure establishes both the woman’s inquisitive, doubting tone and the narrator’s optimistic, rational mood. Two main voices - that of the poet and that of the woman herself - converse with one another. When the woman wonders where “is paradise...when the birds are gone, and their warm fields return no more,” for example, the poet responds how nature, or “April's green endures; or will endure / Like her remembrance of awakened birds,” for all eternity” (Wallace 49 - 58). Both the woman and the poet also use rhetorical questions to keep the conversation flowing and incite thoughtful questions within the reader; the poet’s question “Is there no change of death in Paradise?” effortlessly segues his previous stanza on the beauty of death into his ensuing argument on the beauty of change and the cycles present in nature (76). Wallace’s employment of rhetorical questions effectively convinces the reader of the poet’s argument - the idea that death is not that bad.
Examining the use of more specific poetic techniques to convey the main idea, the reader can find specific devices such as enjambment, parallelism, and anaphora interspersed throughout the poem to provide emphasis. Even in the first line, where “Complacencies of the peignoir, and late / Coffee and oranges in a sunny chair...mingle,” Wallace utilizes enjambment, or the lack of terminal punctuation, to provide an unusual pause after the word “late” (1 - 2). By doing so, the poem itself appears off-schedule, better conveying Wallace’s literal meaning. Another interesting use of a specific poetic device appears in the parallelism of the first stanza: “Winding across wide water, without sound / The day is like wide water, without sound.” This parallelism reinforces within the reader an image of a person solemnly walking across water, better exemplifying the woman’s thoughts. In yet another example, when Wallace ends the poem by speculating on humanity’s loneliness in an indifferent natural world, the technique of anaphora stresses how “We live in an old chaos of the sun, / Or old dependency of day and night, / Or island solitude, unsponsored, free,” (110 - 112). While the poem’s literary meaning is obvious, one cannot help but imagine the individual fragments starting with “or” yearning for an independent clause to complete them. Clearly, Wallace utilizes enjambment, parallelism, and anaphora to provide emphasis in his poem and further its literal meaning.
Speaking of literal meanings, Stevens presents the themes of...

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