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Essay/Term paper: Analysis of "13 ways of looking at a blackbird"

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Research Papers

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Analysis of "13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird"


"Thirteen ways of looking at a blackbird" by Wallace Stevens is a poem
about what it means to really know something. In this poem, Stevens shows this
connection by writing a first person poem about a poet's observation and
contemplation's when viewing a blackbird. He does this by making each stanza an
explanation of a new way he has perceived this blackbird. First, he writes about
his physical perception of the blackbird as an observer. Then, he writes about
the his mental processes during this time. These are as the thoughts and
perceptions of the blackbird itself, as what it must be like to be that bird. By
the end, he has concluded that by seeing this blackbird, a connection has been
made and he now knows the blackbird has becomes a part of him.
In the first stanza, he focuses on the eye of the blackbird as an
outside observer. This symbolizes the thoughts and the consciousness of the
blackbird. It is also a transition from the observer's perception to the
blackbird's perception. In the second stanza, Stevens goes on to say that he
was of "three minds, Like a tree, In which there are three blackbirds." This was
the first time he makes the connection between seeing the blackbird and him
himself metaphorically being the blackbird. He makes this connection even more
clear in the fourth stanza when he says that "A man and a woman Are one. A man
and a woman and a blackbird are one." In the sixth stanza he goes back to being
the poet observer as he watches the blackbird fly by his icy window. Again in
the next stanza he goes back to the point of view of the blackbird wondering why
the men of Haddam only imagine golden birds instead of realizing the value of
the common blackbird. At this time, he makes the connection that in seeing and
knowing the blackbird it becomes a part of himself. When he says in the eighth
stanza "I know noble accents And lucid, inescapable rhythms; But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved In what I know." he is acknowledging that he is
still a poet but when he sees, thinks, and writes about the blackbird, in a way
he is also the blackbird. After this, the black bird and the poet observer are
separated but in the twelfth stanza Stevens writes "The river is moving. The
blackbird must be flying." This is meant to show that though the observer's
connection with the blackbird is made by seeing it, after the blackbird is gone
he still knows it. It is still a part of him.
This poem addresses two things. First, it addresses the epistemological
meaning of knowing something. Philosophically, it could be said that by seeing
or thinking about another being through its own eyes one could make the
connection of knowing it. By knowing it, I mean knowing it's perception of
reality. This leads into the second matter that Stevens addresses in "Thirteen
Ways of Looking at a Blackbird." Steven's says that he knows himself as a poet
and that is a part of himself as a person. However, since he also knows the
blackbird, that perception makes the blackbird a part of him as well. This
connection is what goes into the conclusion "a man and a woman and a blackbird
are one."


 

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