Study Guide

Man Listening to Disc Themes

  • Art and Culture

    "Man Listening to Disc" is all about music—jazz music, that is. We get drums and saxophones and pianos and bass instruments, and all these are working together as they blast through the speaker's headphones to make him really, really happy. Music does that to us. (For example, how happy do we get listening to Taylor Swift? Very happy). So Collins' poem is a tribute to the beauty of jazz music. It's a tribute to the way that art and culture—music in this case—enrich our lives.

    Questions About Art and Culture

    1. In what ways does jazz music enrich the speaker's experience in this poem? What does this suggest about what art and culture add to our everyday lives?
    2. Why does the speaker describe the jazz musicians he's listening to as if they're actually walking beside him down the street?
    3. Why does the music make the speaker feel like he's the "center of the universe"?

    Chew on This

    This poem is trying to point out how music makes us feel like we're better than everyone else around us.

    Actually, the goal of this poem is to show us how music makes us feel like we're connected to everyone else around us.

  • Happiness

    Don't we all want to know what the secret to happiness is? Maybe it's having lots of money, or having lots of kids, or getting to do a job we love. But maybe happiness is something that we can also find in the little things in our everyday lives. This is what Collins' poem suggests, anyway. The speaker of "Man Listening to Disc" is one happy guy. And he's happy for a simple reason: he's listening to some good music. This poem reminds us that we can find happiness not only through winning the lottery or having a girlfriend as hot as Angelina Jolie. We can also find happiness just by enjoying the simple things, like good music.

    Questions About Happiness

    1. What's the relationship between music and happiness in this poem?
    2. In what ways does the poem suggest that being happy is about enjoying the present moment?
    3. What's the relationship between gratitude and happiness? What's the speaker grateful for?

    Chew on This

    This poem demonstrates that happiness is a state of mind. We are in control of our own happiness—our speaker is proof.

    Our speaker's imagination is what really makes him happy. The music just activates it.

  • Friendship

    The speaker is walking around on his own in "Man Listening to Disc." But the thing is, he's not alone. That's because he's listening to four awesome jazz musicians on his headphones, and it's as if those jazz musicians are walking along with him. So, even though the speaker may have never met—or even seen—these musicians in real life, he feels like they're his buddies. In this sense, Collins' poem can be read as a tribute to friendship.

    Questions About Friendship

    1. How does music create a bond of friendship between the speaker and the musicians that he's listening to in this poem?
    2. The speaker describes the musicians as though they're actually accompanying him on his walk, even though they're not actually there. What does this imagery suggest about how close he feels to these musicians?
    3. In what ways does the poem suggest that being "alone" is different from being "lonely"?

    Chew on This

    This poem shows us that it's possible to form a bond of friendship with people who don't know us.

    Sorry there speaker, but we can only be friends with people who we know and who know us.

  • Power

    Reading this poem, we might think that the speaker took some sort of superpower elixir. That's because he feels like the "center of the universe" and the "hub of the cosmos" and the "only true point of view." But no, he hasn't ingested some crazy drug. So why is he feeling so powerful? It's the music that's making him feel this way. Even though the speaker isn't doing anything extraordinary in this poem, besides just walking around, he gives us a sense of how powerful he feels. This poem makes us realize that we don't have to be superman to feel like superman.

    Questions About Power

    1. Why does music make the speaker feel so powerful in this poem?
    2. How does the speaker express the sense of his own power in the poem?
    3. How does the speaker relate to the pedestrians passing him on the street, and what does this say about his own sense of power?

    Chew on This

    The speaker of this poem isn't powerful at all. His power is a delusion.

    Hold on just a minute—our speaker is actually extremely powerful. As this poem shows us, he's the center of the universe.

  • Dreams, Hopes and Plans

    "Man Listening to Disc" is a poem that reminds us just how important it is to enjoy the present moment. The speaker of the poem doesn't have any big hopes or plans. His only plan is to get downtown. That's pretty modest, isn't it? By highlighting how simple the speaker's ambitions are, the poem actually reminds us that, sometimes, the best plans are the simple plans.

    Questions About Dreams, Hopes and Plans

    1. In what ways is the speaker's declaration at the end of the poem—that he hopes that he will make it "all the way downtown"—ironic, especially considering that he's just described himself as the "hub of the cosmos"?
    2. What do the speaker's simple hopes and plans in this poem suggest about the importance of living in the present?
    3. What does the poem suggest about the relationship between happiness and dreams, hopes and plans?

    Chew on This

    The speaker is proof that simple plans are as important as big plans.

    The speaker of this poem actually doesn't have any dreams, hopes and plans. Sorry gang, but getting downtown isn't a plan.