Study Guide

The Cool Web What's Up With the Title?

By Robert Graves

What's Up With the Title?

So we all know the web—the Internet-y web—is a pretty cool thing, right? Well that's not what Robert Graves is talking about in this poem. Instead, he's talking about the metaphorical "cool web of language that winds us in" (9). The title of this poem borrows that phrase, "cool web," which tells us that this is probably a pretty important idea to the poem. It also just begs the question: how is language like a web, anyway?

According to Graves, language isn't just something we use to communicate our thoughts to one another. Rather, it's something that actually shapes and molds our very thoughts. When we want to talk about our experience, we need a bunch of words to work together to make a sentence, kind of like the threads of a web. But on the other hand, language is also like a web because it's something we get caught in once we learn to speak. It's in your head and it gives you all the concepts and categories that you fit new experiences into. It'd be interesting to experience the world without all these pre-established categories. But hey, once you're caught up in language, you're in it for good. Get comfy.

And what's the main effect of this web of language, you ask? It's to help us "Retreat from too much joy or too much fear" (10). So Graves is basically telling us that language has a way of making our experience more moderate. When language turns all of our sensations into practical information, everything seems more neutral and objective to us. The horrible things we experience aren't so horrible anymore, but the highs aren't so high either. Everything's much more "Meh, whatever."

This ability for language to make our experience duller is the reason behind Graves using the adjective "cool" to describe it. Language takes the extremes of our experience and makes them "cool" and manageable (as opposed to, you know, hot and spicy). But cool can also mean that everything gets a little bland (like non-spicy chili), and for Graves, this is the double bind of being a human who uses language to think and speak. On the one hand, language dulls experience. But on the other hand, we'd go crazy if we experienced the world in a totally unfiltered way. The title sets us up to consider that very tricky (and sticky) bind.

This is a premium product

Tired of ads?

Join today and never see them again.

Please Wait...