The Wild Iris
by Louise Glück
The Wild Iris Theme of Transformation
Like it or not, life is change. You are no longer the same person you were one minute ago. By default, we are changed by time and by the world. We are also changed by the choices we make (which is why Shmoop is feeling remorseful about that second hot fudge sundae). "The Wild Iris" lends itself to many interpretations, but the poem seems particularly interested in two types of transformation: emotional and spiritual. Both involve suffering, but both arguably lead to freedom.
Questions About Transformation
- Do you think the speaker in "The Wild Iris" had any control over the process described in the poem? Why or why not? Have you ever felt like you were at the mercy of circumstances beyond your control? If so, how did you react, and what did you learn from the experience?
- Why do you think the speaker in "The Wild Iris" is so eager to talk about death? Do you consider it morbid to think or talk about death? Why or why not? In some traditions, reflecting on death is a recommended technique for promoting spiritual growth. Do you think this practice could be beneficial? Why or why not?
- Imagine that you are interviewing the speaker of "The Wild Iris" about the experiences described in the poem. You ask the speaker, "How did those experiences affect you? Did they change how you feel about yourself or the world? Do you live your life differently now?" How do you think the speaker would respond?
Chew on This
"The Wild Iris" suggests that suffering can lead to emotional growth because painful experiences sometimes strengthen a person's character by breaking old habits and revealing new possibilities.
"The Wild Iris" suggests death is not an end. It's just yet another change we undergo.