Anecdote of the Jar
By
Wallace Stevens

    In the poem, Anecdote of the Jar, Stevens portrays the complex relationship of human to nature through confusion of who is greater than whom, how they depend on each other, the connection between the two, and the form the poem is written in. Stevens forces the reader to feel the confusion and chaos present between the jar (a symbol for humans) and nature. This relationship can be felt and read through the form the poem is written in.

    The poem uses confusing wording to show the relationship of humans to nature. For example, line 9 says, "It took dominion everywhere." "It" referring to nature, means the power that nature has over the jar (humans). Nature's dominant overpowering weakens humans. Humans then become powerless and vulnerable to whatever nature has become. Another line proving this dominance states, "The jar was gray and bare." This line describes the jar of being plain and simple. This normalcy becomes ineffective and powerless. The ordinary doesn't have as much power as the objects that stick out from the crowd. Humans don't seem to stand out in the vastness of the wilderness.

    The next line turns the control in an interesting way: "It did not give of bird or bush." Because the jar was in the previous line, it is natural to think "it" in this line refers to the jar. The plot begins to thicken as it was previously suggested that the wilderness had all the control in the relationship. The jar now becomes an authority because it will not give into the natural world. To the reader, the relationship just became undefined. The power was turned over from nature to man.

    Stevens also shows the dominance issue in the beginning of the poem. He says, "It made the slovenly wilderness /Surround that hill." The authority is placed again in front of the jar. The wilderness is careless and aware of this new object placed in its environment. Then the poem states, "The wilderness rose up to it, / And sprawled around no longer wild." The roles are reversed once again. The wilderness is now in charge. The reversal of the roles contained the poem in an environment of utter confusion. Stevens showed the audience that this relationship really was chaotic, throughout the poem, to prove his point.

    Stevens created this confusing state to allow the reader to really feel what the relationship is between the two. This relationship is hard to understand and is something that cannot be set. Using irregular rhymes and wording, Stevens is able to create this unsolvable relationship. Taking a step away from the poem to real life proves that Stevens is correct in his undertaking of ideas from human to nature. For example, this very paper is from a tree that man has cut down, showing that nature was defenseless in the act. On the other hand, there are certainly a number of hurricanes, tornadoes, avalanches, etc. happening in the world today. Humans can do nothing to prevent these disasters from happening. Neither human nor wilderness is the dominant source.

    With all the confusion in the poem, Stevens reveals an underlying message to the reader. Line 7 in the poem reads, "The jar was round upon the ground. " This section of the poem shows the dependency of humans on nature. Through the rhymes of "round" and "ground", we can see the relationship. To achieve a rhyme such as this, the two words have to be consistent and dependent on each other. Stevens shows the dependent relationship of humans to nature through these two words. It is a very solid line that helps the reader not to be totally confused when reading the poem. This line also begins to show the base for the relationship.

    The next line (8) also supports this hidden security of the relationship between human and the natural world. It says, "And tall and of a port in air." This line represents the unseen connection between human and nature. The "port" refers to a connecting force that ties the relationship together. The jar, being "tall" in the air, represents the depth of the relationship. Above the initial confusion and chaos, there is a deeper meaning to the relationship. The "port" runs through the confusion to get above it and reveal the true relationship. Stevens used the word "air" to represent the unseen connection. We, as humans, depend on air to survive. Although we have never seen, touched, or heard air, we know that it is there and depend on it to live. Stevens refers to air to show the unseen connection between mankind and the natural world. This connection is very important and crucial to the relationship. In fact, the relationship depends on this connection.

    Another way to look at the connection of humans to the natural world is through the first and last lines of the poem. These two lines embody the poem to start and finish in a calm way. Both end in the word Tennessee. This can show the relationship outline as being simple. Just as the port went above all the chaos, the outline of the poem goes around the chaos The first line of the poem is the beginning of the relationship. This opens the reader in a confusing state to figure out what Stevens is really trying to get across. This mass confusion is the body of the relationship. Somewhere in the poem, Stevens shows in a deeper meaning of the relationship through a connection. As the poem nears the end, the same word is used to end the poem. That is the end of the relationship; there is no more to be added. It leaves the reader feeling satisfied, even if he or she didn't understand the content of the poem.

    Stevens truly does a wonderful job of portraying the relationship of humans to nature. By using the jar to represent man, he was successful in creating an environment not only expressed in the poem, but also felt by the reader. He used irregular rhymes and role changes to express the complex relationship. The reader is left with confusion but an slight understanding of the relationship. Stevens expressed the relationship of humans to nature very well m this piece of work.

Back to Previous Page