Study Guide

Anecdote of the Jar Life, Consciousness, and Existence

By Wallace Stevens

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Life, Consciousness, and Existence

Wrapped up in the conflict between the natural and the man-made, there is significant debate in "Anecdote of the Jar" about life, consciousness, and existence—the whole shebang. First, we've got the whole idea of point of view—the speaker's consciousness is affected by the way the jar morphs the landscape in which it's placed. Second, we get the idea that birds and bushes—things that are capable of breeding or growing, of sustaining life—are valued as very different from the jar. This poem seems to recognize that just being alive gives a kind of power, even though in a way all living things are threatened by the reign of our own man-made objects. Yipee!

Questions About Life, Consciousness, and Existence

  1. What effect does the word "I," in line 1, have on the rest of the poem? 
  2. What role does perspective, or point of view, play in this poem? 
  3. What do you take line 11 ("It did not give of bird or bush") to mean in relation to the rest of the poem? Why?
  4. What kind of "port" do you think the speaker is referring to in line 8? Why?

Chew on This

Nice try, Mr. Jar. This poem shows that the ability to procreate and grow is central to existence.

"All your life are belong to us." In this poem, Stevens shows how the spread of humanity has extended to influence every type of earthly existence.

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