by Wallace Stevens
Sunday Morning Theme of Man and the Natural World
It’s easy to talk about "nature" as if it were one, simple thing. But nature is many things in this poem. For the female protagonist, it’s a potential paradise and a source of beauty. But nature also includes the forces of death and change, which can pull the rug from under you at the moment you feel happiest. In the final stanza, nature is a kind of "chaos" that surrounds us like the ocean surrounds an island, and it’s not clear how well we can know the meaning of anything in nature.
Questions About Man and the Natural World
- What does the poet mean by suggesting that humanity is an "island" surrounded by the "wide water" of nature?
- How do religious beliefs affect the way we look at nature? Without religion, is nature just "chaos?" And, is "chaos" necessarily a bad thing?
- Which religious figure is more closely associated with nature in the poem: Jesus, or Jove? How might religious myths be inspired by things or events in nature?
- Does the poem distinguish between parts of nature that are under human care and control, and parts that are not?
Chew on This
In the final stanza, the poet imagines that nature is completely foreign to human needs and desires, which, strangely, is why we find it to be so beautiful.