Task 2: Analyse

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 toget…


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

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 com…



The speaker’s attitude is also reflected in the language, i.e. in certain 
words that portray the process of civilization in a value-laden way.

Civilization as an epidemic

The expansion of the network of highways is, in a very subtle way, com
pared to a kind of epidemic. This comparison arises from the ambiguity of 
the word “sweeping” which – among other things – refer to …


Stylistic devices

The term ‘stylistic devices’ covers a wide range of linguistic phenomena, 
i.e. certain noteworthy techniques of language use. These include meta
phor, allegory, personification and many more. With respect to “Dream
ing America” we will touch upon two stylistic devices: irony and analogy.


One of the stylistic devices employed by Oates in this poem is irony. This 
is most clear in the beginning of the fourth stanza:

“Where the useless stretch of trees lay” (l.25).

As mentioned above (under the headline The speaker’s attitude as re
flected in the poem’s structure
), the speaker takes nature’s side…

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