Analysis of The Man on the Dump
Through several writing techniques, Wallace Stevens paints a somber portrait in his poem The Man on the Dump. Stevens use of statements, lists, and punctuation gave me an overall sense of lazy joy suddenly changing to dark sadness.
While reading Stevens poem, I was reminded of the scene of the assassination of John F. Kennedy. In the scene of Kennedy s death, everyone is at first extremely happy, but when Kennedy is shot, the onlooker s joy instantaneously reverts to horror. Similar to this scene, the speaker is at first enjoying the simple pleasures of a dump, but his mood quickly changes to deep sadness. Stevens uses particular statement throughout the poem to express the mood of the speaker. In the beginning of the poem, the speaker expresses his delightful indolence by using the line, Day creeps down. The moon is creeping up(1). This statement gives the impression of time passing slowly. He goes on to say, one sits and beats an old tin can, giving the reader the feeling that the speaker is enjoying the time he is spending on the dump. Stevens use of imagery and statements in the last stanza instantaneously changes the scene to macabre; the speaker says, nightingale torture the ear, Pack the heart and scratch the mind (39-40). The speaker s mood changed, just as the mood of the crowd of onlookers changed as they watched their beloved president shot.
Another tool that Stevens uses to affect the poem s mood is the usage of lists. He reveals common, everyday objects contained on a dump, The wrapper on a can of pears/the cat in the paper bag, the corset, the box (7-8), giving the poem a simple natured feel. The tone of the poem is again changed drastically in the last stanza, when the speaker uses the following list: mattresses of the dead, bottles, pots, shoes and grass murmur aptest eve (45-46). Stevens did not add colorful, elaborate words in the last list, such as he had done in previous lists, making it seem without feeling and depressing.
A third technique Stevens uses to convey the somber ending is his use of punctuation. In the easy going beginning of the poem, the speaker rattles on and on about all the good things about the dump. The speaker s mind is jumbled with thoughts and has no time to use much punctuation. An example of his rambling would be the run on sentence, beginning with so the sun in line five and ending with, the tiger chest, for tea. As the speaker s mood changes he begins to ask questions and uses more punctuation. He begins to use punctuation because he is not as excited as he was at the onset of the poem and now has more time to use punctuation.
Through the imagery and writing techniques that Stevens utilizes in the poem, he relates to the reader, what the speaker is feeling. The speaker is at frusta enjoying his time spent on the dump, but his feelings quickly shift to a more somber mood.