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Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird

by Wallace Stevens

People

Symbol Analysis

Our feathered friend is the true star of the poem, and people make only random, mysterious appearances. The speaker scolds those unappreciative "men of Haddam," makes fun of the "bawds of euphony," and describes a dude who rides around in a glass carriage. And the blackbird is like, "You think I'm mysterious?" People only appear in the middle sections of the poem, and they have an uneasy relationship to their natural surroundings.

  • Section IV: A man and woman form a symbolic unity through the act of sex, love, or marriage, depending on how you want to look at it. The speaker then humorously plays with this old cliché by throwing a blackbird into the mix.
  • Section VII: The speaker asks two rhetorical questions. The "golden birds" could be asymbol of wealth and money, like the goose that lays golden eggs, or of exceptional, impossible beauty. The blackbird is a symbol of more commonplace beauty, the kind that is too often ignored. The "thinness" of the men of Haddam symbolizes the poverty of their spirits. Think Bob Dylan's "Ballad of a Thin Man."
  • Section X: A "bawd" is like a female pimp, and "euphony" is pleasant, soothing sound. The "bawds of euphony" represent people who like easy, relaxing pleasures. They don't take the time to appreciate complicated experiences.
  • Section XI: Fear can't actually "pierce" someone, except metaphorically. "Pierce" reminds us of all the glass and icicles in the poem.

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