Study Guide

Anecdote of the Jar Life, Consciousness, and Existence

By Wallace Stevens

Life, Consciousness, and Existence

I placed a jar in Tennessee (1)

This line gives us the only blatantly human act in the poem: someone putting a jar in Tennessee. This seems, well, random. But we, as living breathing humans, are completely entitled to do random things—unlike the jar, which is bound to just sit there on the hill, where it was placed.

The wilderness rose up to it (5)

This line gives autonomy to the wilderness. It's capable of acting for itself, rising up to the level of the jar—if the man-made is something to be risen up to. If the wilderness is capable of submission, and consciousness, what other mysteries about life does this poem hold for us?

It took dominion everywhere (9)

If everywhere means everywhere, then more than the wilderness is in danger of being under the rule of the gray, bare jar. We, as living breathing human beings, could also become its captives. Now, we know it's not a jar, but think about your computer, or, if you have one, your smart phone. How much do you rely on the man-made objects in your life? Do they rule you?

It did not give of bird or bush (11)

This is a comment on the inability of the jar to do something that happens of its own accord in the wilderness—procreate. Bushes and trees and flowers seed to produce new growth, and birds and bees... well, if you've ever had that talk, you know what they do. Life relies on the ability to procreate.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...