Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird
by Wallace Stevens

Section XI Summary

Get out the microscope, because we’re going through this poem line-by-line.

Section XI

He rode over Connecticut
In a glass coach.
Once, a fear pierced him,
In that he mistook
The shadow of his equipage
For blackbirds.

  • An unknown male character travels through Stevens's home state of Connecticut in a glass "coach." A coach is a kind of carriage drawn by horses.
  • The man becomes afraid when he sees the shadow of his coach ("equipage") and thinks that he saw blackbirds.
  • We all know the feeling of being scared by a shadow, but why is this guy afraid of blackbirds?
  • The coach could have glass windows, or the entire thing could be made of glass, in which case it would be a fantasy. The word "glass" reminds us of the icicles from Section VI, and the word "pierced" reinforces the idea of sharpness.
  • Stevens lived in a time when automobiles were already becoming commonplace, so the mention of coaches and equipages is deliberately old-fashioned. You might think of nineteenth-century Gothic novels where people ride through dark forests in carriages in nighttime and hope they don't get abducted by murderers.
  • This is the first section to use the blackbirds as an object of fear, but we get the feeling that the poem might be mocking the man in the carriage.

Next Page: Section XII
Previous Page: Section X

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