by Wallace Stevens
Sunday Morning Theme of Happiness
Have you ever been so happy that you never wanted the feeling to end – and you actually made yourself kind of unhappy by thinking about the fact that it had to end? The woman in this poem is content as she eats a breakfast outside in the sun, but she knows that Sunday mornings don’t last forever. She wonders if she might be better off if she believed in the Christian idea of eternal happiness in heaven. But, eventually she settles on the more fragile idea of happiness among the changing cycles of nature. Or, maybe she decides that happiness just isn’t that important after all?
Questions About Happiness
- Is there such a thing as total happiness, or is all happiness mixed with fear and anxiety about the future?
- How does the Christian view of joy compare to the pagan view in the poem? What are the pros and cons of each view, and do you find one more persuasive than the other?
- What makes the pagan men who dance and sing to the sun seem so happy? Do you think that kind of happiness is possible in today’s world?
- There a lot of different words and phrases that describe happiness in the poem, including "joy," "contentment," "heaven," "paradise," heavenly fellowship," and "enduring love." What do all these phrases have in common with one another, and how do they differ?
Chew on This
The ring of pagan men are the happiest people in the poem, but such people would never survive in a modern society, because they have no concern for the future.