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Analysis and comments on Anecdote Of The Jar by Wallace Stevens

1 [2]

Comment 9 of 19, added on January 17th, 2014 at 4:54 PM.

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Comment 8 of 19, added on January 17th, 2014 at 1:56 AM.

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Comment 7 of 19, added on January 8th, 2014 at 4:04 AM.

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Comment 6 of 19, added on November 20th, 2013 at 12:56 PM.

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Comment 5 of 19, added on May 15th, 2012 at 3:05 PM.

Art orders nature

Dave from United States
Comment 4 of 19, added on April 7th, 2011 at 5:59 PM.
Pun in "Anecdote of the Jar"?

Could the line, "And tall and of a port in air." be a pun--a play on the
words "of important air" as in haughty? ... perhaps a reference to the
dialect of Appalachia?

Deepbluekat from United States
Comment 3 of 19, added on October 19th, 2009 at 3:52 PM.

It seems to me that the poet refers to civilization.The jar's getting ride
of its small and surrounded place stans for the growing of civilization
little by little.

ABDERRAHIM from Morocco
Comment 2 of 19, added on June 7th, 2007 at 7:32 PM.

Whenever human beings interact with nature, they usually try to bend it to
their will, often in selfish and destructive ways. In Wallace Stevens’
“Anecdote of the Jar,” Stevens describes a Tennessee long before human
beings lived there. It is in this human free nature that Wallace sees as
the stage against which man battles nature for supremacy.
The “I” of the first line symbolically represents all humanity. He
enters, places a jar on a hill, and then departs the poem. The rest of the
poem is told from the viewpoint of the jar, thus equating the jar with the
human need to dominate nature. It is significant that the “I” did not
place a flower or plant on that hill. Not only is the jar a man-made
artifact, its roundness, a shape not often found in nature, emphasizes its
human origins. Further, the “I” places the jar at the top of the hill,
thereby giving it a commanding view of the terrain. The jar’s height
advantage over raw nature gives it an initial power advantage over the
disorganized wilderness. However, Stevens suggests that the power of man
to gain a permanent advantage over nature is illusory. Man may think that
he has the upper hand; he may further think the height is a symbol of that
power. But the ability of human beings to control nature is the larger
battle of the few to control the many. Usually the few lose.
The struggle for supremacy seems to go toward the jar’s side at first: “It
made the slovenly wilderness / Surround that hill.” The wilderness that
surrounds the hill is only that part which lies closest to it. The greater
majority is far from the jar and thus unaffected. So if nature loses the
first meeting between man and nature, that loss is the inconsequential loss
of a skirmish rather than the ruinous defeat of a rout.
The seeming victory of the jar continues in the second stanza, as the
viewpoint shifts subtly from the jar to that of the wilderness. The reader
sees events from the non-human angle and nature first counterattacks, then
submits meekly: “The wilderness rose up to it, / And sprawled around, no
longer wild.” The victory of the jar is echoed in the poem’s many
repetitions of “round:” round, sur-round, a-round, and g-round. Each
sound-alike reinforces what to humanity must be the victory of the artifice
of human-directed roundness over the slovenliness of nature. Yet, the
seeds of a stalemate are suggested in the often overlooked last two lines
of the second stanza: “The jar was round on the ground / And tall and of a
port in air.” The roundness and tallness of the jar is undercut by the
suggestion that it is “of a port in air.” A rarely used definition of
“port” is that of an escape or hatchway to safety. The victory of the jar,
then, is seen as merely a prelude to a more traditional stalemate that
emerges in the final stanza.
After the jar “took dominion everywhere,” the jar itself is described in
terms that do not indicate a fruitful victory: “The jar was gray and bare.”
Here the jar is lifeless, a quality further emphasized by the next line:
“It did not give of bird or bush.” The result of the battle for control
leaves nature defeated, but only locally, and the man now as weakened and
slovenly as nature was in the first stanza. The mention of “Tennessee” as
both the starting point and the end point suggests its circularity. Man
may try to overpower nature, may in fact win a few local skirmishes, but
nature itself is too powerful for human beings to control. What is left is
only the illusion on control. “Anecdote of the Jar” then implies that
power is a game in which one must fool oneself about the rules and outcome
of a game that was decided long before human beings ever walked on the face
of the earth.

martin asiner from United States
Comment 1 of 19, added on May 5th, 2005 at 9:48 AM.

The poem is one of the great arguments for the value
of formalism and its connection to its environments, or contexts. The jar
(its form) brought the surrounding hills (the contexts) to life.

R Freeman from United States

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Information about Anecdote Of The Jar

Poet: Wallace Stevens
Poem: Anecdote Of The Jar
Added: Feb 20 2003
Viewed: 657 times

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