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The Wild Iris

The Wild Iris

by Louise Glück

Movement Versus Stillness

Symbol Analysis

In the second line of the poem, the speaker mentions a door but won't tell us where it leads. Talk about a teaser. Doors make us curious because they represent change, movement from one place (or state) to another. Depending on how you interpret the poem, you might view the image of the door as a symbol of positive change, of movement from death to life. To explore this idea further, think about other images in the poem that suggest a tension between movement and stasis, or stillness. 

  • Lines 1-4: Here's that mysterious door in line 2. "Death" appears in the next line. We're not told whether the door leads toward, or away from, death. But the door is situated "at the end of my suffering." If you were the one facing that door, would you choose change? Would you open the door and walk through?
  • Lines 5-7: In this stanza, we find another image associated with motion, but the movements are small, just the shifting of pine branches. The phrase "Then nothing" may mean that even those small movements stop. A-ha, an image of stasis!
  • Lines 8-10: The only movement in this stanza is mental movement, or "consciousness." Being "buried in the dark earth" intensifies stillness to the point of paralysis. It makes Shmoop squirm just thinking about it.
  • Lines 11-15: Thank goodness, we can move again. Though the "stiff" earth resists movement, it still bends a little. And there are birds "darting." In the Christian tradition, birds are often symbols of the soul, and the word "soul" appears in line 12.
  • Lines 16–20: The motion suggested by the word "passage" again seems to have positive connotations of freedom, as the speaker returns from "oblivion," a state of nothingness that recalls the ominous stasis in line 6 and the death-like paralysis in line 10.
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