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The Great Figure
The Great Figure
by William Carlos Williams
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The Figure 5

Symbol Analysis

The title makes that "figure" sound a little like an action hero or a circus attraction: "Come and see the Great Figure in all his numerical glory!" But the poem provides no evidence for the greatness of the number 5 aside from the excitement of its own broken-up lines. In fact, we can't even be sure that the title refers to the number at all, although it appears to.

  • Title: Once we realize that the "great figure" is just a random number on a truck, the title becomes ironic, the figure something less than we expected.
  • Line 3: The word "figure" has at least two different meanings. It can mean simply a "number," but it can also refer more broadly to "figurative language," in the sense that one thing can stand for another. We have no idea what the number 5 in gold would be a symbol for, which is part of what makes this poem so intriguing.
  • Lines 3, 6: The combination of "figure 5" and "firetruck" produces alliteration, the use of the same letter at the start of successive words.
  • Lines 4-5: Williams presents an image of contrast between the colors red and gold.