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Constantly Risking Absurdity

Constantly Risking Absurdity


by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Charleychaplin Man

Symbol Analysis

We'll get to the specifics about the actual Charlie Chaplin below, but for now, we understand that he was a comedian, a little funny looking, and very recognizable. But this isn't about him. It's about all the ideas that come to mind when we imagine him. He's small, so he's not all that intimidating; silly (often doing ridiculous slapstick sort of comedy); and perhaps represents the notion of absurdity. After all, everything about the poet-acrobat and what he does can very easily be confused with being absurd and ridiculous (rather than artsy and awesome and, oh, beautiful). And the poet is the "charleychaplin man."

  • Lines 28-30: He's a "little charleychaplin man" which looks to be a big contrast to the acrobat that was high above us earlier. We're getting an image that's not only silly but also less superhuman ("super realist"). So why the contrast? Well, just like the charleychaplin man is a bit goofy up there entertaining the masses, so the poet feels about himself. He's not sure about who he is or what he's doing. He has no idea if he'll nab beauty or fall short and look like a fool. By the end, we see that the poet-acrobat-charleychaplin man is just as vulnerable to the outcome of his work and purpose like we are. There are no guarantees, but at the very least, we can recognize the silliness that's in all of us, whether you're a poet or everyday guy. Maybe absurdity isn't so bad after all—especially if it entertains the masses.

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