Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock
by Wallace Stevens
Lines 1-9 Summary
Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.
The houses are haunted
By white night-gowns.
- Okay. Right off the bat, this is a silly poem.
- We mean, nightgowns are basically big, white shirts that come down to the ankle. They're glorified sheets that people sleep in. They're ridiculous-looking.
- Like out of some cartoon (do people watch Scooby Doo anymore?), a house is haunted by a person in a sheet… ish.
- But it's not just one house. It's a whole bunch of houses. Those nightgowns are on the rampage.
- The speaker might be giving the suburbs a hard time for being filled with boring people. In other words, we think that whole "haunted" business is really just a metaphor for the way in which all those denizens of suburbia wear the same exact boring old thing to bed.
None are green,
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings.
- Yep, it's a silly one.
- Ugh, what a shame that none of these nightgowns are green, or purple, or any other color, with a little pattern. You know, something to shake things up?
- See, the speaker is listing all the crazy colors that the nightgowns could be, but aren't, because the people in them don't like fun. He's using a little thing we like to call anaphora, or repeated phrases at the beginning of a like (in this case "Or") to really drive home the point.
- By saying what the nightgowns don't look like, the speaker is giving us clues into how the scene could be more interesting if the people in the houses put a little effort into their wardrobes.
- These nightgowns almost sound clown-like. The imagery here is all about bright colors and bold patterns.
None of them are strange,
With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures.
- None of the nightgowns are weird enough for the speaker, who's obviously into absurd art. Either that or he's friends with Dolly Parton, who's no stranger to beads and lace.
- Since the subject of the sentence is a pronoun ("them"), we're not exactly sure what he or she is talking about, but we can assume he's referring to the nightgowns here.
- Still, it's possible that the speaker is trying to tell us that the houses or the people in the houses aren't strange either. Which is a big ol' bummer.
- The speaker thinks some lacy socks (um, those sound uncomfortable) or beaded belts (a.k.a. "ceintures") could jazz up the nightgowns.
- We agree. You know, we here at Shmoop our known for our style, and we'd like to add a little flow and color to the outfit.
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