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The Emperor of Ice-Cream

The Emperor of Ice-Cream


by Wallace Stevens

The Emperor of Ice-Cream Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. What do you think the speaker's attitude toward death is? Does he fear it? Or does he appreciate it? Maybe both? Why do you think so?
  2. Why does Stevens end each stanza of this relatively short poem with the same line, "the only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream?" Why this refrain?
  3. What would an emperor of ice-cream look like? How would he compare to the boring emperors we are familiar with in history?
  4. Would the poem sound different if Stevens had chosen to rhyme each of his lines? Would it make us feel differently about what he's trying to say? How so?
  5. Do you think we could truly enjoy life if we were reminded daily that death was inevitable? In other words, do you think that—contrary to what our speaker seems to say—being distracted might be a good way to go through life?

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