Study Guide

Ode to My Suit Setting

By Pablo Neruda

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The poem might begin in the bedroom, but it doesn't stay there long. As the speaker wakes, showers, and puts on his suit, he's prepared to meet the world—with its people, struggles, and events. He goes out and takes a walk, ready to meet the day.

There's no description of what that day might look like, though. There aren't many specifics in the poem; no people, places, or time periods are mentioned. All we've got to go on, really, are a couple of items.

First are bullets, mentioned in line 45. Based on the history of the gun, Neruda's mention of bullets narrows the poem's setting down to… oh, anytime after the 1360s. Hmm, that doesn't help much.

What about the suit itself? Since suits came into popularity around the mid-nineteenth century, we can estimate that the poem occurred anytime from then until Neruda wrote it in 1954. That's… yeah, still not very specific.

Why so vague, Neruda? We'll tell you: because specifics aren't actually very important to his purpose. Neruda uses the suit, an everyday item, to get at more universal themes, like mortality and spirituality. Perhaps he kept it vague so that we would re-consider our own suits (or, more likely, our own favorite items of clothing) and start to ponder these themes right along with the speaker. That's where the real poem occurs: in the mind.

What do you think, Shmoopers? Has Neruda got you seeing your favorite t-shirt in a whole new light?

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