Study Guide

Anecdote of the Jar Transformation

By Wallace Stevens

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It's funny how a jar, which can't really transform itself, can have such a transformative effect on the environment around it, at least in the point of view of our speaker. In "Anecdote of the Jar," the little jar changes the wilderness around it, figuratively whipping it into significance so that it's no longer wild. So take that, wilderness! We have to also think about how this little jar is a kind of symbol of industrialization, and a world that is transforming and ever becoming more reliant on technology. Still, though, the jar itself cannot, like the birds and bushes so rampant in Tennessee, transform without the hand of humankind. Well, so take that little jar!

Questions About Transformation

  1. How might the jar transform the wilderness out of the wild? 
  2. Do you think that the jar, in any way, was transformed by its placement? Why, or why not? 
  3. What effect does reading about the jar's transformative powers over the wilderness have on you as a reader? As a person? Are those effects different? 
  4. What, if anything, in this poem, remains unchanged by the placement of the jar?

Chew on This

Close, but no man-made cigar. Though the jar transforms the wilderness by bringing it under its dominion, the wilderness retains some qualities that are beyond the reach of the jar.

There's more than meets the eye in the wild. In this poem, the power of the wilderness is that it can transform through procreating and growing, while the jar is bound to its original form.

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