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Themes

If you were a person living in Paris near the beginning of the 20th century, there would be a lot of reasons to be afraid of the metro. The crowd of anonymous strangers pushing past one another, blank stares, the dirty wet ground. This poem, though, presents the new technology as the scene of a mystical experience, in which the poet and his readers are reminded of the serenity and calm of a Japanese garden.

Questions About Modernization

  1. In what ways would the experience of riding a subway in the early twentieth century have differed from the experience today?
  2. Although there is no mention of any technology aside from the title, what do we learn about the Paris subway from reading the poem?
  3. Why is this a poem that could only have been written in modern times?

Chew on This

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

The poem does not have an opinion one way or the other toward modernity. The poem treats our relation to technology as essentially the same as our relation to nature.

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