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Keeping Things Whole

Keeping Things Whole


by Mark Strand

Keeping Things Whole Theme of Isolation

It's not every day that you come across someone who thinks he's the embodiment of absence. But it isn't that unusual to hear people talk about feeling isolated. In the age of social media and handheld computers, our attention spans are less than long, and we travel around in little digital bubbles. The speaker of "Keeping Things Whole" isn't walking around with an iPad in his hand, but he does feel isolated from his environment, which is everything he is not.

Questions About Isolation

  1. What imagery does the speaker use to create a sense of isolation from the natural world? 
  2. Although the speaker never says he is lonely, how does he create a sense of loneliness and detachment from both himself and his environment? 
  3. How do the line breaks in this poem contribute to the speaker's feelings of being "absent"? In other words, how does the poem's form mimic the content?

Chew on This

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

The whole reason the speaker moves to keep things whole is because he feels like he isn't a part of anything. He's not part of the whole, so he has to keep moving to get out of its way.

This speaker's isolation is self-made. If he could just stand still for a moment, he'd find he's actually a part of his environment, and not breaking it up.

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