Study Guide

Ode to My Suit Quotes

  • Transformation

    to be filled
    by my vanity, my love,
    my hope, my body. (3-5)

    Ah, this is where it all begins. The suit, which has been waiting on the chair while the speaker showers, is ready to be filled with the speaker's vanity, love, hope, and body. Whew, that's a lot of stuff to fit into one suit. It's no wonder that the speaker changes the suit from merely fabric into something resembling himself when he puts it on. We just don't know what it'll transform into (not yet, anyway).

    my legs seek
    the hollow of your legs,
    and thus embraced
    by your untiring loyalty (10-13)

    Using personification, Neruda lets us see that the suit is already becoming more human. It has its own legs, though they are hollow, but referring to them as "legs" doesn't necessarily mean we think they are alive. It's the use of "your" that reminds us that Neruda is addressing the suit. They then "embrace." The suit has transformed into something that can return affection. It's more than just a suit (after all, how can a piece of clothing be "loyal")? The speaker is beginning to consider the value of the suit; it's transforming into something more than just a nice cut of fabric.

    I am shaping you,
    poking out your elbows, (27-28)

    The speaker compares the "shaping" that the world does on him to how he shapes the suit. The more he wears it, the more it wears out. But perhaps, it also becomes more comfortable, more fitted to his body. This transformation mirrors the transformation he is going through in his own life, as events and struggles wear him down and "shape" him. Life wears him and transforms him, just as he wears and transforms his suit.

    and so your life grows
    in the image of my own. (30-31)

    The word "grow" conjures up very specific imagery. It makes the reader picture grass, and trees, and maybe even cute fuzzy animals learning to walk. Growth is a type of transformation; it's a very natural way to transform. Here, Neruda shows us that whatever is changing, it's happening naturally.

    because we are one being
    and shall be always (65-66)

    At the end of the poem, the speaker ponders the end of his life. As he imagines dying, he realizes that he and his suit are "one" and always will be, even unto death. The suit has gone from a pile of clothing sitting on a chair to a part of his existence, though in these lines the speaker realizes that it isn't the suit that has transformed; the real transformation happened in his mind the moment he decided to take a second look at something old and familiar.

  • Death

    […] someday
    an enemy
    will stain you with my blood, (43-46)

    As he thinks about how he might die, he imagines getting shot. But the only imagery he gives us is of the suit being stained by his blood. This puts the violence at a distance; it's happening to the suit, not as much to the speaker. There's no mention of pain or injury, even though this bullet leads to his death. Perhaps considering the suit's mortality, which is just a fantasy, is a safe way for the speaker to consider his own mortality, which is far more real.

    but perhaps
    it will be
    less dramatic
    simple, (49-52)

    Neruda goes on to explain that this more "simple" and less "dramatic" death is one by illness. But aren't some illnesses very dramatic, and aren't some illnesses very complex? It could last years, and require various treatments. It seems that the speaker considers this type of death to be simpler because it isn't the result of violence, even though it may be a more painful way to die. In this way, his attitudes and violence and death are revealed.

    and together
    we will be lowered
    into the earth. (57-59)

    Neruda uses imagery to create a death scene that has a peaceful tone. Together, the two of them are "lowered" into their grave; this could be referencing the slow death of aging that he imagines he and the suit face. Instead of using the word "grave," he says "earth." This reminds us that death is natural, which mirrors the "simple" way of dying that is aging. And the suit is with him; he's not alone. Imagining the suit as his companion forever gives him peace, not fear, even when he imagines being put to eternal rest.

  • Art and Culture

    work my way into my poetry; (15)

    How does someone "work their way" into poetry? It sounds painful. Neruda's language here indicates that he thinks poetry isn't just a game, but something that takes time and effort. It also makes it sound like his poetry is already there, waiting for him. Hmm, it's kind of like his suit is waiting on a chair every day, right? Both of them require the speaker to enter them before they can come to life.

    the things,
    men, women,
    events and struggles
    constantly shaping me (17-20)

    He shapes the suit, and the lives of the people around him shape him. Both make it possible for him to make art, a.k.a. poetry. The culture of his people makes him the artist that he is; without them, there is no poetry.

    opening my eyes,
    creasing my lips, (23-24)

    These people, events, and struggles that shape him also "open his eyes" to new ideas and "crease his lips" or make him speak about them. Neruda believed that art could reflect cultural and political movements, and this belief is an undercurrent of his poetry. In this poem, we can see how, underneath it all, he believes that his people are the reason he's writing. Without them and their struggles, he'd be blind and mute.