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English 202

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The Meaning of Guilt William Carlos Williams was born on September 17, 1883 and died on March 4, 1963 (Rosenthalm); he was a great American Poet. Williams was mainly associated with modernism and imagism, and he was a wonderful mentor to other young poets. Williams wrote many poems such as, “The Red Wheelbarrow,” “Spring And All,” “The Dance,” and “This Is Just to Say” (Rosenthalm). Aside from being a poet, he was also a well-known doctor where he “studied at the University Of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine” (Rosenthalm). Upon graduating from Medical School, Williams delivered over 3,000 babies. Although he was a doctor, his primary focus was on writing. After analyzing Williams’ works, one will see that within his works there are different messages and various interpretations that come along with them. His poem, “This Is Just to Say,” will show the different interpretations that one could gather from this poem, but still get the same meaning from it: guilt. This is a very simple poem. While reading “This is Just to Say,” it would appear that this poem was only about a man who ate his wife’s fruit and then proceeds to apologize for it. The fact that he was a doctor clearly shows he was a very smart and clever man to create such an easy interpretation. After reading this poem the first time and analyzing the content of it, one would assume the meaning is as simple as saying “I’m sorry,” because one knows he is in the wrong. Williams would not just write a poem about eating a fruit and continuously apologize for it. Though this poem is short, there is more to it than what it displays to its readers. The first interpretation of this poem could simply be forgiveness for some type of mistake. As stated in line 9 of the poem “This Is Just to Say,” “Forgive me,” clearly shows that he wants sympathy from his wife for eating her last piece of fruit. But the mistake was not eating the plum; it was much deeper than that. This poem was created because of a much bigger mistake such as infidelity. This poem could have possibly been written about a person who had infidelity. This poem could have been written to ease the guilt of the mistake. Have one ever felt the need to tell his or her mate a mistake they made, but does not know how to quite do it? In a way, that is what this poem could be perceived as: apologizing for something small when there is truly something bigger that one really is apologizing for; in other words, that would be known as having some type of guilt for something one has done or plan on doing. “This is Just to Say” is deeper than what it may appear to be and has an underlining meaning; the interpretation of forgiveness is an obvious thing to pick out. Therefore, the second interpretation of this poem could be religion. He could be relating this poem to the biblical story of Adam and Eve. In the bible, Adam and Eve basically ate the forbidden fruit. God told them they could eat from any tree in the Garden of Eden except from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. He told them that once they ate from that tree they would be dead; “but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die” (Genesis 2.17). Adam and Eve knew they could not eat from the tree. The fruit on the tree appeared to be very appealing to the eye. In this poem, the plum appeared to be delicious and sweet. Once the plum was eaten, it was classified as “so sweet and so cold” (11-12). When using the phrase “so sweet and so cold,” it could be related back to Adam and Eve. Once they ate the fruit, they realized it was not what they thought it was going to be like. It caused them more harm than good. In comparing them to Williams’poem, he ate the fruit, but then realized he should not have eaten his wife’s last piece of fruit. Obviously, he felt some type of guilt or he would not have apologized for it. In contrast to Adam and Eve, there was some guilt on their part also. All in all, Williams’ poem “This Is Just to Say,” clearly has different interpretations with the same meaning: guilt. Why would one write a poem apologizing for something they have done if there was not guilt behind it? Both of my interpretations, forgiveness and religion, of the poem have the same meaning. Yes, those could be meanings themselves, but if one look at the bigger picture of both interpretations, one may conclude that the meaning of this poem is essentially guilt.

Works Cited
Madden, David. A Pocketful of Poems: Vintage Verse, Volume ll. Boston, MA: Rosenberg, Michael , 2006. Rosenthalm, M.L. Williams' Life and Career. 18 Mar. 2001. 9 Feb. 2012 <>. The Holy Bible, King James Version. New York: American Bible Society: 1999; 9 Feb. 2012 <>.

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