Study Guide

Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock Appearances

By Wallace Stevens

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The houses are haunted (1)

Ghosts appear out of nowhere, and if a ghost popped up, you would certainly be surprised to say the least. In fact, you might have to spend a lot of time thinking about if what you saw was real or just your imagination playing a trick on you.

By white night-gowns. (2)

So it turns out your imagination in that first line? It totally was playing a trick on you. We're not talking ghosts at all. What things look like—how they seem—isn't always what they are.

None are green
Or purple with green rings,
Or green with yellow rings,
Or yellow with blue rings. (3-6)

The color schemes stir our imagination and make us understand how exciting the world can be. These color schemes also make us consider the strangeness of our normal color schemes and normal ways of living. Who's to say what's normal, anyway? Isn't it all relative?

None of them are strange, (7)

Something only appears strange if we rarely experience it. If we see something every day, it does not appear to be strange anymore, and what a bummer that would be. Now, go listen to "People Are Strange" by The Doors.

With socks of lace
And beaded ceintures. (8-9)

These accessories are garish and gaudy. Anyone who wore them to bed would appear strange. And probably more than a little uncomfortable. Fierce, but uncomfortable.

Only, here and there, an old sailor,
Drunk and asleep in his boots, (12-13)

The sailor's drunken and messy appearance makes us think that he has had a hard, but possibly enriching, life. He's had some fun, and that makes for fun dreams.

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