Study Guide

Anecdote of the Jar Visions of America

By Wallace Stevens

Visions of America

I placed a jar in Tennessee (1)

Here, we get a vision of an American state. It's not one of the pilgrim's settlements, and it's not a pioneer's goal. It's simply Tennessee, a mix of the mid-west and the south. But this placement of a man-made object into a state does remind us a little of the American people sprawling all over this country, taking over bit by bit.

It made the slovenly wilderness
Surround that hill. (3-4)

Here, the wilderness is messy, something almost asking to be controlled and bettered by humanity's influence, the way things were done in the days of the pioneers.

The jar was round upon the ground
And tall and of a port in air. (7-8)

There's a reverence for a product of industry here that reminds us of patriotic jingoism, or glorified, fast-talkin' propaganda. But we're not spurring a nation to war here... we're talking about a jar.

It took dominion everywhere. (9)

Isn't this kind of what the pioneers did when they moved West, bringing the untamed wilderness under their dominion by force of will (and might)? Of course, this conflict was not without unspeakably tragic costs (to Native Americans, most particularly). How do you think the speaker feels about this kind of dominion?

It did not give of bird or bush,
Like nothing else in Tennessee. (12)

Though the country is ever-developing, it can't be debated that there are still a lot of wild and growing things in America, even, if not especially, in Tennessee. America is a wild country, try to tame it as we may.

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