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Plain Jane

Symbol Analysis

No need for fancy language here. No, sir. Doesn't even matter that we're talking about the snootiest of all snooty subjects, art. In fact, kind of like us here at Shmoop, Auden seems to think that you don't need to break out every SAT word you ever knew in order to talk about the Big Stuff like art, culture, and human nature.

  • Line 4: Layering multiple images of everyday occurrences on top of one another, Auden creates something like a composite portrait of everything that you might see people doing at, say, 2:07 on a Tuesday afternoon. It's like one of those montages that you see at the end of Grey's Anatomy. Except without all that cheesy music.
  • Line 11: A dog's "doggy" life? We love it! In fact, we'd probably read the poem all over again just to get to that line. Auden's descriptive language isn't at all fancy or flowery. In fact, it's just plain silly. But we all know immediately what he means. And that, folks, is pure genius.
  • Lines 16-18: There starts to be a strange discord between the cataclysmic events described here and the relaxed tone of the verse. Plain starts to become eerie, we've got to be honest: a boy's legs silently disappearing? Ack!
  • Lines 19-20: OK, this is about as understated as it gets. "Calmly" sailing away from disaster? 1) That's pretty plain language. No fancy descriptions of their thoughts or opinions on the matter. 2) WHAT? Seriously? We're betting that these folks don't win any prizes for civil service. But Auden's plain language seems to suggest that such actions are commonplace.

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