Study Guide

The Layers Time

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Like mortality, time has a haunting presence in "The Layers." This speaker has "done time," if you know what we mean (not jail time, but real time). He's meandered through many time periods and he's trying to come to terms with all those life experiences. (It's probably not easy being ancient.) The speaker and time have kind of a love-hate relationship as he continues his travels. He sure likes living (and maybe living forever), but he doesn't like losing things or feeling distant from significant happenings from his past.

Questions About Time

  1. What does the passing of time tell us about the speaker in this poem?
  2. According to the poem, does time seem to confine and limit us? Why or why not?
  3. How does Kunitz sneak in the theme of time without always making a direct reference to it?
  4. If we could eradicate time altogether, would life be simpler or more complicated? How would the speaker answer that question?

Chew on This

In "The Layers," the speaker is able to transcend time through an elevated state of consciousness. Far out.

Although the speaker in "The Layers" has a complicated relationship with time (put that on your Facebook status, why don't you), he ultimately grows stronger and wiser from it.

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