Wording of assignment: Analyse the speaker’s attitude towards this pro
cess of civilization. Focus on the poem’s structure, language, and stylistic
The analysis of a text can be viewed as a jigsaw puzzle in the sense that all
the different parts of the analysis form an overriding and complete pic
ture when put together. When all the pieces are assembled you start
looking at the big picture; that is, you start to interpret in order to find out
what the text is basically about in terms of themes and message. In this
way the small pieces (the analysis of certain situations, elements and
quotes) all contribute to the final picture which constitutes the underlying
basis of your interpretation.
In short, the analysis and interpretation of a text is a question of how
form and content interact. As distinct from the summary part, it is im
portant here that you underpin your claims with quotes and examples
from the text. In other words, it is crucial that you, with reference to the
text, show how and why you arrive at your interpretation. Your analysis
should be approximately 600-800 words.
Focus points in the analysis
In this part of the assignment you are asked to analyse the speakers’ atti
tude towards the process of American civilization with regard to:
- the poem’s structure
- stylistic devices
In the following paragraphs we present what we find to be the most dis
tinctive factors with respect to the speaker’s attitude towards the process
of American civilization. It is not necessary for you to include all of them in
your own paper, but you should consider what you find to be the most
significant elements and incorporate them into your paper.
The poem’s structure
Grouping the stanzas
In this particular case, a good place to start is by dividing the poem into
two. Notice how the first three stanzas are opened by the word “When”
(ll. 1, 8, 17) whereas the final two starts with the word “Where” (ll. 25,
31). The following items study whether this grouping of the stanzas (1-3
and 4-5) has a deeper meaning.
The first three stanzas
Aside from their opening word (“When”), the first three stanzas have at
least two distinctive common traits. Firstly, each of these stanzas begins
with the construction of something:
- “When the two-lane high way was widened” (l. 1).
- “When the highway was linked to another” (l. 8).
- “When the fields were paved over / Frisch’s Big Boy rose seventy five feet in the air” (ll. 17-18).
Secondly, each of these stanzas ends with a kind of emptiness or process
towards absence or destruction:
- “then into designs / then into stains / then nothing” (l. 7).
- “the outbuildings fell” (l. 16).
- “Illuminated at night” (l. 24).
The word ”night” is of course not directly tied to emptiness or absence
but it is definitely associated with these phenomena by convention.
The last two stanzas
The last two stanzas also have common characteristics aside from the
opening word “Where”. As opposed to the first three stanzas, nothing is