Updike Essay, Research Paper

All poets have a certain structure in order for their poem to be understood

in an artistic and unique way. Through the use of organization, diction and

figurative language, the poem is composed in a creative manner. In ?The Great

Scarf of Birds?, by John Updike, the speaker is understood through the use of

all these methods.

When the poet begins to speak of what he remembers, he uses vivid colors to

describe his surroundings and also his stage in life. ? Ripe apples were

caught like red fish in the nets (Line 3).? This is symbolizing his stage in

life that is ?ripe? or closer to death. Like the fish in the nets he is

caught on where his life should go. As the first stanza progresses, it leads the

reader to the speaker?s eyesight which is focused on the

abundant sky filled with birds.

Yet the speaker begins to express of his awe and amazement that occurs when

he sees the flock of birds in lines 14-24. He describes this flock as ? a

cloud of dots like iron filings which a magnet underneath the paper undulates

(Lines 16-18).? This is a simile to death, something that is too strong for

even the human spirit. This ?cloud? is darkened in spots. This color imagery

is another way to symbolize death in which the poet at this time fears. He

describes the flock as a living being in lines line 20 when he describes this

?cloud? as one that ?paled, pulsed, distended.? This is like the

movements of a heartbeat. He also depicts the flock of starlings as a rock,

something constant, sturdy, and indestructible.

In the next stanza, reality is set in to the speaker. He is distracted by his

own world and does not see it as beautiful. It seems as if this scene is a work

of art like pointillism. It is beautiful from afar but jaded looking up close.

When he looks around, he considered himself like Lot?s wife, a person turned

into a pillar of salt when looking at something he shouldn?t have.

He then observes the birds the starlings covering the fairway. He states in

lines 39-40, ? I had nothing in nature would be so broad but grass.? Grass

is green and the symbol of life beginning, growing, and renewing. The birds, a

symbol of death, cover the grass, a symbol of life.

In the sixth stanza, he observes one bird flying again into the sky and the

rest of the flock following. He now describes the flock as a lady?s scarf,

something delicate and beautiful, unlike his first description of the birds as

clouds, something hovering and ominous.

In the last stanza, the poet compares the lifting of the birds as an

alleviation of his once burdensome heart. The grass is seen again when the birds

leave. This is a symbol of the circle of life and it comforts him.

In ?The Great Scarf of Birds? by John Updike, the poet first is fearful

of the stage in his life but is later comforted by envisioning the flock?s

flight, which becomes a symbol of life?s continuing cycle. This poem is

further illustrated through its use of diction, organization, and use of

figurative language.

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