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Keeping Things Whole

Keeping Things Whole


by Mark Strand

Keeping Things Whole Theme of Man and the Natural World

Or is it Man Missing in the Natural World? In the case of "Keeping Things Whole," we're not dealing with a man who returns to nature to get balance, who's battling forces of nature, or who's trying to live a more organic lifestyle by shopping at the farmer's market. Our speaker's relationship with the natural world is totally and completely and absolutely non-existent. Well, sort of. He's there but he's not there and if he doesn't keep moving, he'll vanish completely. What's natural about that?

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. How does the form of the poem create tension between the speaker and place? Check out those line breaks for ideas. 
  2. What is the relationship between the speaker's absence and his desire to "keep things whole?
  3. How does the speaker use images from nature to express his relationship to the natural world? What effect does this have on our understanding of the poem's overall meaning?

Chew on This

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

If nature were a classroom, the speaker would be getting detention everyday for not showing up to class even though he was there all along, which leaves him with a sense of fragmentation and isolation.

Most people believe we're naturally linked to the natural world, but for the speaker in this poem, his link to nature is through never being a part of the world and his only cure for that is to never stand still. Ugh. We're tired just thinking about it.

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