Study Guide

The Wild Iris Suffering

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At the end of my suffering (1)

Suffering is a word with multiple meanings: pain, distress, agony, grief, torment, affliction, sorrow, misery, anguish (enough already, we get it!). In "The Wild Iris," we never learn exactly what the speaker means by "my suffering." The imagery of the poem, however, suggests some pretty heavy-duty physical and emotional pain. And isn't that enough to be getting on with?

It is terrible to survive
as consciousness
buried in the dark earth. (8-10)

Read in isolation, line 8 states, "It is terrible to survive." Gee, ain't that uplifting? Shmoop suspects that Louise Glück is being sneaky here. By ending line 8 where she did, she hints that life can sometimes seem like a fate worse than death. Sadly, suffering always carries the risk of despair.

[…] that which you fear, being
a soul and unable
to speak […] (11-13)

These lines describe two different kinds of suffering. Being unable to speak is bad enough, but fear can be even worse. The overall tone of the poem suggests that the speaker has urgent messages to convey, so we should probably listen up. Is one message that we don't need to be afraid?

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