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Questions of Travel

Questions of Travel

by Elizabeth Bishop

Analysis: Setting

Where It All Goes Down

"Questions of Travel" has a really intense setting at first. We feel like we're with the speaker observing rushing streams and powerful waterfalls. The images are intense and realistic. It's like we're in Brazil, traipsing up and down those mountain trails.

But as the poem moves along, the speaker begins to ask all of these philosophical questions. Suddenly, it seems we're nowhere at all. (Or, to be more precise, that we're somewhere we can't picture—that we're in the speaker's mind.)

But among these deep questions and answers are bright, incredibly vivid moments. A "folded sunset, still quite warm." Bam. It's like we're hanging with the speaker on a beach, watching the day fall into night. "Disparate wooden clogs / carelessly clacking." Bam. Another vivid moment. We can almost hear those wooden shoes.

Vivid, sensuous details like these are sprinkled throughout the poem. For every abstract thought, there's an equally detailed image that roots us in a very specific place. It's not at all difficult to imagine ourselves chilling with the speaker, soaking in that folded sunset because she describes it so lushly.

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