Study Guide

Ode to My Suit Themes

  • Transformation

    In the speaker's eyes in "Ode to My Suit," a threadbare old suit has become a loyal partner. Without its daily presence, he'd be unable to write poetry, because to write poetry he needs to be able to leave the house, meet people, and have adventures. But the suit transforms even further; he starts to see it as a body that covers his own, is filled by his own, and that takes on the struggles and joys of his own life. Sometimes it reminds him of his soul, even if he'd rather forget it. In the end, it even dies with him, and they go into the earth together. As he ponders it all, the speaker realizes that it is his thinking that has changed, not the suit. Talk about transformation.

    Questions About Transformation

    1. What tone does the speaker take towards the suit? Does it change throughout the poem?
    2. How does he describe the suit? How does he use personification to bring it to life?
    3. Does the speaker really think the suit will "die" when he dies? Why or why not?
    4. When and how does the suit remind the speaker of his soul?

    Chew on This

    The suit and the speaker become "one" at the end. That's because they both live and die together.

    Anything can transform into something special if you consider it long enough. That's the power of poetry, Shmoopers.

  • Death

    The speaker of "Ode to My Suit" imagines various death scenarios as he considers his suit. Will the two be shot by an enemy in a sudden spark of violence? Will he instead wear his suit into old age, dying slowly of illness? Whatever the method, pondering his suit has him pondering spending eternity buried in it. It's safe to say that death is on his mind.

    Questions About Death

    1. Which "type" of death does the speaker call "simple?" Why might he consider it so? What is he comparing it to?
    2. Does the suit accompany the speaker in death?
    3. What imagery does Neruda use to explain his idea of death? How does his choice in imagery affect your reading experience? Does it change the tone of the poem?

    Chew on This

    Neruda calls one type of death "simple" and another "dramatic." This points to his views on death by violence.

    It's easier to think about death if you imagine having a companion. Re-examining the suit allows Neruda to consider death in a less scary way.

  • Art and Culture

    For Neruda, anything could be the stuff poetry is made of—like a suit. It was his aim to reconsider common items and find in them some poetry that anyone could read and enjoy. Art and culture was for the masses, he thought, not just for the elite. So as he ponders the suit he wears daily, he realizes that, without these rituals of waking up, showering, and getting dressed, he'd be unable to go out and meet the people that inspire his art in the first place. He'd also be unable to experience the events and struggles that shape his him and make him a poet, just as his body shapes the suit and makes it something worthy of poetry.

    Questions About Art and Culture

    1. How does the title indicate how the poet feels about art and culture? Does the poem live up to the title?
    2. How does the suit make it possible for the speaker to write poetry? To what, or whom, else does the speaker attribute his poetic skill?
    3. How does the style and form of the poem support its assertions about art and culture?

    Chew on This

    Neruda misses his universal mark a bit with this ode. Think about it: a suit? He's leaving out women, as well as anyone who may not be able to afford nice threads.

    Neruda's choice of subject matter is a deliberate way for him to signal his beliefs about how poetry should be accessible.