Study Guide

Theme in Yellow Introduction

By Carl Sandburg

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Theme in Yellow Introduction

Imagine being so good at what you do that people can't help but name a bunch of schools and parks after you. Then, after your death, folks can't resist nominating the house you lived in as a National Historic Site. If that's not impressive, we don't know what is.

All of the above is but a glimpse into the life and career of Carl Sandburg. And you'd think all the fuss would make the guy all pompous and too big for his britches, right? Wrong. Sandburg was anything but pretentious and pompous. In fact, he considered most of modern poetry to be nothing more than "a series of ear wigglings." He didn't like all the highbrow words and ideas that other poets of his time couldn't help but churn out. In fact, critics often coined Sandburg as the "voice of America singing." And folks don't usually sing about academia, so by now you're probably catching the drift of what Sandburg was more so about.

He wrote in a simple, beautiful, yet still completely unique kind of way. That takes a lot skill, Shmoopers, so get ready to take some notes on how "Theme in Yellow" is a perfect example of Sandburg's singing American style.

"Theme in Yellow," first published in Chicago Poems (1916), is all about pumpkins and Halloween. Already you're probably nodding your head thinking, yeah, I could dig this. Making things even better is the fact that the speaker imagines himself as a pumpkin, so the whole poem is told through a pumpkin's perspective. And we know you always wanted to know what those pumpkins were thinking around Halloween, so here's your chance to gather round, tell a few ghost stories, and just have a poetically delicious time—of it all without a bunch of "ear wigglings."

What is Theme in Yellow About and Why Should I Care?

You have to admit, Halloween (despite all the cheesy commercial stuff) does have an eerie and mysterious vibe about it. How could it not with all the witches, vampires, and werewolves running around? We're guessing Carl Sandburg was really digging the spooky vibe the year he wrote "Theme in Yellow," but decided to portray Halloween as something harmless, and maybe even cute.

And what better way to tell a harmless Halloween story than through the perspective of a pumpkin in autumn? By using such a pumpkin-centric voice, Sandburg lets us see Halloween through the eyes of a jolly pumpkin, and really, what's more likeable than that? Immediately, we get the sense that the speaker is showing us this autumnal world in a way that's equally beautiful as it is fun and a little spooky. So Sandburg is kind of saying, hey guys, it doesn't have to be all about gore and poisoned apples.

And if you're more so the type who skips the whole trick-or-treat gimmick and prefers a good slice of pumpkin pie, we're thinking you'll catch Sandburg's drift. So enjoy the scenery, carve a pumpkin or two, and check out this take on that spooky time of year that comes only once.

Theme in Yellow Resources


Sandburg Timeline
Facebook's got nothing on Sandburg's real timeline.

Radical Sandburg
Our man was known to have some "radical" political views.


Sandburg Gets a New Documentary
"The Day Carl Sandburg Died" will answer all of your most burning questions about the poet.

The Poet of the People
Here's a nifty explanation of what we mean when we say Sandburg was a "poet of the people."


That Conversational Sound
Here's a take on how "Theme in Yellow" sounds all conversational-like.

Even Faster?
This sounds like it was read by someone who was late turning it in for class (complete with locker slamming effects).


Smiling Sandburg
Poets can smile too, you know.

Theme in Yellow
Here's a look at just what our speaker was getting at.

Articles and Interviews

Guns and Sandburg
Before guns became a major topic for discussion, Sandburg was warning about the dangers of guns and violence.

Sandburg and the Chicago Race Riots
Our man was on the front lines documenting this very tumultuous time in America.


Chicago Poems
Here's the complete collection where "Theme in Yellow" first showed its "terrible teeth."

The Other Carl Sandburg
Get to know all about the stuff most people don't know about our man.

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