The Curse of the Orange Tree and the Artist
"In a Green Night" by Derek Walcott is a poem about the conflicting feelings of life. "In a Green Night" focuses on the ever-present threat of death, and how our lives revolve around the inevitability of death. Through metaphors, paradoxes, and repetition, Walcott exemplifies the hopelessness and glory that occur when an artist realizes that, in his quest for creating the perfect piece of art, he is ultimately growing closer to death--just as an orange tree grows closer to death as it produces its magnificent fruit.
The key to "In a Green Night" lies in the metaphor that Walcott uses; human thought and creativity are compared to an aging orange tree. An orange tree produces oranges just like an artist produces art. Both living things are in immediate danger of losing their lives without producing something meaningful. An orange tree's life can be short-lived, with few opportunities to produce its beloved fruit. An artist's life may follow this same road; the artist may have only a very short time to produce his own masterpiece. As the orange tree and the artist come into the prime of their life, they also begin to die. Walcott uses this metaphor beautifully, without ever actually comparing the two objects directly.
The second device that Walcott uses in "In a Green Night" is the paradox. A paradox is a statement that first seems to be contradictory or absurd, but it turns out to make perfect sense. The first place that Walcott uses a paradox is in the title of the poem. "In a Green Night" appears to contradict itself. Nights are usually described as "dark," or "obscure," or oftentimes they even symbolize death. By using the word "green" Walcott makes a very bold statement about this poem. "Green" symbolizes life--as in plants, suggesting that this night is somehow special; it's somehow different from ordinary nights. Although "green" appears to be the opposite of how nighttime would be explained, this description does in fact make sense. Walcott shows in the title that something can be green (full of life) and dark (close to death) at the same time. As an artist yearns to produce the ultimate piece of art; as he created art in what seems to be his prime, he is growing closer and closer to death. An artist begins to fear that he will never produce the ultimate piece of art.
Along with the title, "In a Green Night," Walcott uses other paradoxes to exemplify the meaning of the poem. Walcott writes: "She has her winters and her spring,/Her moult of leaves, which in their fall/Reveal, as with each living thing, zones truer than tropical" (5-8). The paradox in these lines is the opposites, winter and spring. Winter connotates a world full of hopelessness and despair. Spring connotates a world full of hope and prosperity, since spring is full of color and life. The connection between these two seasons comes from the orange tree that appears as the main subject of the poem. ...