Study Guide

Central Heating Versions of Reality

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Versions of Reality

Along with the speaker's musings about the world and his place in it comes his version of reality—or the lack thereof. In "Central Heating," he feels that everything he can see is fake. Even the face of his lover isn't quite real enough for him to have faith in it. Harsh. This is kind of mind-stretching, but it's fun to think about different kinds of reality. (Why do you think the movie "The Matrix" was so popular? It wasn't just all Keanu.) We're dealing with the same kind of philosophical craziness here. We explore exactly what kind of force is running the speaker's thoughts, emotions, and his world as we read the poem. Though we don't get a clear answer (that would be too easy, wouldn't it?), exploring the question is enough to intrigue us.

Questions About Versions of Reality

  1. If the speaker believes what he states in line 14, "essentially everything visible is artificial," then what, for him, would be real? 
  2. How do the speaker's physical interactions with women affect his version of reality? 
  3. How does the metaphor of central heating relate to the speaker's distrust of reality? 
  4. How do ideas of light in the poem relate to the speaker's concept of reality?

Chew on This

The speaker of this poem does not believe his own claim that everything visible is artificial. Love shows him the way back to reality.

The speaker of this poem believes that there is a more real, important world behind the visible (like in The Matrix, only with fewer fight scenes).

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