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The Snow Man by

In: English and Literature

Submitted By scuareboy
Words 999
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Mark Nestor
Poetry Essay: Imagery and Figurative Language Wallace Stevens’ poem “The Snow Man” is a poem that creates a unique situation using imagery and figurative language. The wintry imagery in this poem is used to express the wonders of the mind while forcing the reader to determine what is metaphorical and what is literal. Wallace uses imagery and figurative language to aid in showing how our mind becomes one with a scene upon seeing it. While Stevens’ poem is masterfully painted with imagery, it is ultimately the meaning of the poem that is so very rewarding and that makes it so great. The speaker describes snow covered trees as the sun glitters off of the top of the distant snow covered banks, while the wind blows and creates a sound that gives the reader a miserable feeling. The speaker talks about how winter is a cold and miserable time and it takes a special type of mind to see past that. The speaker has two realities in his hands- the cold and harsh reality of winter and what the speaker creates using his own perspective. What all of this really means is that using imagination, a whole new perspective can be created allowing the reader to hide the harsh, bare reality that the world really is. Stevens’ uses this to demonstrate that the central viewpoint of this poem lies in perspective.
When reading the poem the reader comes to the realization that there is no snowman in the poem. Well, how could this be? That is because the title of “The Snow Man” is a metaphor. At the first glimpse of “The Snow Man”, it does not give much away. The only thing that can be deduced from the title is that it is going to be about the winter. But how might that come into play? It cannot be proven that the snow man in the title has a mind of winter, but of anyone who might, the snow man would be a likely candidate. If the snow man does have a mind of winter, the reader learns here that he is also a very cold being. Having a mind of winter, as Wallace implies is necessary, the snow man can listen to the cold winter wind and not feel miserable. Here the snow man is at what one might call a nice distance from any of those pesky things that people call feelings. He sees the world as an empty canvas, not holding any meaning that could potentially give to it. Why does Wallace call the land bare? He says it is because the snow man's mind is not imagining flowers and misery onto it. Without the snow man's imagining anything, the land isn't much of anything at all. Thanks to his mind of winter, the snow man, who by now is already pictured as “the listener”, sees nothing while looking out at a wintry landscape. The snowman is only able to see “the nothing that is not there and the nothing that is”(15). The theme of the poem is all about perspective, when the listener does see the wintry landscape that means they are viewing the sugar coated version of reality that was conjured up using imagination. In reality snow is just simply snow and nothing more. People picture winter as a magical time but it really is not without any imagination.
The paradox that lies within the last line of the last stanza actually holds the meaning of the entire poem in it. It is a tricky paradox to unravel but once you figure it out it starts to make sense. The paradox is as follows: “Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is”(15). This refers to the person who is able to look at winter and not see it in a miserable fashion. In saying that someone sees the “nothing that is not there”(15), then they are seeing winter as “the snowman” might see it, which is detached and distant. When it says they see the “nothing that is” then they are seeing the winter in a miserable way or how Wallace describes it in the poem. Stevens makes substantial use of imagery in “The Snow Man”, seeing that the poem is not about winter at all. The title and much of what is said in the poem leads the reader to believe that it is going to be a Christmassy poem about Frosty the Snowman or some other fictional Christmas character. The poem starts out with “One must have a mind of winter”(1), which the reader might find slightly alarming if beginning to read the poem with expectations of Christmas. Wallace then continues in the next two stanzas using decorative language and employing the different types of imagery to paint a beautiful wintry picture in the readers mind. The specific types of imagery used are auditory and tactile. The author describes the pine trees as “crusted with snow”(3), as if the reader was touching them and mentions the “sound of the wind”(8) which everyone has heard before, perhaps capturing the reader in a familiar place. Wallace does this so that the reader may see the power of the imagination. In stanza 4, it is discovered that without imagination creating all of these images of winter that it is really barren and there is nothing there. The way Wallace uses imagery in this poem is significant in that it helps him to talk about the wonders of the mind. Overall, Wallace’s use of imagery and figure of speech effectively convey his idea of how it requires a wintry mindset to look around at the wintry landscape and not think of it as a depressing canvas of a barren place. It is also implied that no matter what the reader sees in that wintry landscape and despite whatever mindset they have, the reader and the canvas mean nothing and everything relies on the persons perspective.

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