From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.

The Hospital

Symbol Analysis

The man-made objects that open the poem have a big influence on the way we look at the nature scenes that follow. The hospital becomes a kind of lens that changes the way we see the world in the poem.

  • Line 1: The image of the contagious hospital puts us (just for a moment) in a completely human world. Everything that follows is natural, but here, for just a second, we’re stuck in a place of disease, with its white sheets and the smell of disinfectant. Williams is too sly to tell us exactly what the hospital means, but, sitting where it does, we can be sure that this isn’t just a random location.
  • Then again, if we’re going to make a deal out of the hospital, it wouldn’t be fair to leave out the road. It’s not as exciting as a "contagious hospital," but it’s a pretty important symbol, especially in America. In so many books and movies, it stands for freedom and possibility. On the other hand, roads can also make us think of danger, loneliness, and the violation of nature.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...