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The Emperor of Ice-Cream

The Emperor of Ice-Cream


by Wallace Stevens

The Emperor of Ice-Cream Theme of Power

This is a juicy one, not just because it's nestled in a bunch of delicious language in "The Emperor of Ice-Cream," but also because Stevens puts a different spin on the theme of power. Sure we see hotshots flexing their figurative muscles all the time on the global political stage, but guess what? They don't even know that "the only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream." If they did, we're pretty sure they'd pack up those plans to take over the world and grab a cone instead.

Questions About Power

  1. How does the speaker of the poem, as an authoritative director, participate in this theme of power? 
  2. Why is the "emperor of ice-cream" the "only emperor?" What's Stevens saying about power in this refrain
  3. Is anything more powerful than death? For instance, can the human imagination, the way we conceive of death, take away its power over us? Why do you think so?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

Absolute power corrupts absolutely, but in "The Emperor of Ice-Cream" power is just a folly of the imagination.

The only real power people have in Stevens' poem is that which enables them to live their lives to the fullest.

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