Study Guide

Anecdote of the Jar Man and the Natural World

By Wallace Stevens

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Man and the Natural World

"Anecdote of the Jar" is the story of a jar placed in the wilderness and the effects that jar has on the wilderness. The jar becomes a symbol of civilization, all that is man-made, which stands up against the natural world. Throughout the poem we are left to wonder which side the speaker is on. At the end, we see that, though the jar may overpower the wilderness in the speaker's point of view, the wilderness still has the power of growth and procreation, which the jar does not, and can never, have. In your face (er, lid), jar head!

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. What do you think the jar symbolizes? Why? 
  2. What do you imagine the wilderness described in the poem looks like before and after the arrival of the jar? 
  3. Why do you think the jar makes the wilderness no longer wild? 
  4. Do you think the speaker prefers the wilderness, or the jar? Why?

Chew on This

That's better! This poem shows how the intrusion of a man-made object can improve the natural world.

Nope. Actually, that's like, way worse. This poem shows that the intrusion of man-made objects ruins the beauty of the natural world.

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