Study Guide

The Man-Moth Ambition

By Elizabeth Bishop

Ambition

[...] He emerges
[...]
and nervously begins to scale the faces of the buildings. (11-13)

We can't help but to admire how the Man-Moth gets right down to business here. Just diving right in is one way to get over his anxiety.

He trembles, but must investigate as high as he can climb. (16)

Go, Man-Moth, go.

he climbs fearfully, thinking that this time he will manage
to push his small head through that round clean opening
and be forced through, as from a tube, in black scrolls on the light. (19-21)

No wonder he's so ambitious; the end results sound so graceful and magical.

(Man, standing below him, has no such illusions.) (22)

This refers back to line 6-8. Is Man better off without these illusions, or is he missing out on some depth in his life?

But what the Man-Moth fears most he must do, although
he fails, of course, and falls back scared but quite unhurt. (23-24)

The Man-Moth is dreaming the impossible dream. He fails because it's impossible, but his failures don't bother him a bit. He gets up, dusts himself off, and goes about his business.

Each night he must
be carried through artificial tunnels and dream recurrent dreams. (33-34)

How does this tunnel compare or contrast with the tube on line 21?

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