TheVacuum Poetry Analysis
HowardNemerov’s poem “The vacuum” has been structured around thecentral pun of “vacuum” or state of emptiness. The speaker hasan old widower as the speaker, who states that there was a vacuum inhis life as a result of the departure of his wife. Essentially, thefact that the poem has been titled “The Vacuum” rather than“Vacuum Cleaner” draws the reader’s attention to the pun. Inessence, story in the poem revolves around an elderly speaker whomisses his wife and is unable to run his vacuum cleaner since itbrings memories of his departed wife. It may be acknowledged that thepoem espouses the common cultural assumption to the effect that womenare homemakers, in which case the widowed speaker is having a hardtime handling this task in his grief.
Thispoem incorporates a fractured rhyme scheme mostly incorporating slantrhymes. These rhyme schemes give the poem some element ofincompleteness and messiness, which is essentially the feeling thatthe speaker has about the death of his wife. A case in point may bethe words “mouth/youth”,“dirt/heart”, which bring in an unsatisfying sound that is areflection of the speaker’s dissatisfaction and underlines theconcept of incomplete pairs.
Inaddition, it is imperative that one acknowledges the importance ofthe syntax and sound of the poem. It may be acknowledged that thepoem, sonically, alternates between sorrowful, breathy vowel soundsand biting, sharp consonants. An example of the breathy sounds may beseen in passages that incorporate “h”. For instance, “thehungry, angry heart hangs on and howls”.It may be acknowledged that the sorrowful assonance emanates frompassages echoing howl sounds like “when my old woman died her soul”or “houseis so quiet now”.The passages that are breathy and mournful like the sound ofemptiness or vacuum are interrupted by passages that have sharp,short alliterative sounds such as “biting at air” or “cheap asdirt”. This tonal alteration mimics long sorrow emotions that arecombined with painful, sharp stabs.
Withregard to syntax, the poem incorporates long, complex sentences thatadd clause on clause, thereby building the tension that is thendeflated using a quiet ending. It is worth noting that the middle ofthe poem incorporates one long sentence where the speaker states“I’velived this way long enough, but when my old woman died her soul wentinto that vacuum cleaner, and I can’t bear to see the bag swelllike a belly, eating the dust and the woolen mice, and begin to howlbecause there is old filth everywhere she used to crawl, in thecorner and under the stair”.This also underlines the build-up of tension and the eventual releaseof the same. It is a reflection of the tension and release of sadnessand hurtful feelings, as well as the intense sound experiencepertaining to a vacuum that is approaching slowly and becoming louderbefore moving past. It may be acknowledged that the sound may bemimicking the life that the speaker has had with his wife, where shecame to his life and took up a fundamental part of it only to leavesome years later. Even after he is left, he still relieves thefeeling of her presence albeit with an element of emptiness, vacuumand helpless.
Booth,Alison, and Kelly J. Mays. TheNorton Introduction to Literature.New York: W. W. Norton & Co, 2010. Print.
Introduction:Meaning of the title
Whyuse “the Vacuum” and not “the vacuum cleaner”.
Whatcultural assumption does the poem play upon?
Therhyme scheme: Adoption of a fractured rhyme scheme
Whatis the role of this rhyme scheme?
Examplesof the rhymes?
Syntaxand Sound: How does the syntax and sound of the poem complement it?
Whatsounds are incorporated in the poem?
Whichassonance is incorporated?
Examplesof the sounds and assonance and how they measure up to the poem’semotions
Thepoem’s syntax: Size of the sentences?
Whyincorporate long sentenses?
Whatemotions do the long sentences am at mimicking?