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7 The Emperor of Ice-Cream: A Command of Acceptance
Wallace Stevens The Emperor of Ice-Cream: A Command of Acceptance

8 Thesis The Emperor of Ice Cream shows that one should always accept the realities of life, even if they are harsh. Now let’s read the poem!

9 Wallace Stevens Born in Reading, Pennsylvania in 1879 Attended Harvard
Worked as a reporter and a lawyer before becoming vice president of the Hartford Accident and Indemnity Co. Published poems on the side Died in 1955 (Wikipedia)

10 His Poetic Ideals Stevens work is primarily concerned with the following: How the Imagination can transform the ordinary Supreme Fiction--Centering the Imagination on Reality Religion is a Man-Made Creation Poets contain a higher power than the normal man Poetry takes the place of religion (Vendler)

11 Modernism Unlike their predecessors, modernists were generally pessimists. They saw the world as chaotic, unstable, and futile. They also saw that religion, as well as morals, were lost. Often these poets felt confused about their place in the world.

12 The Title “The Emperor of Ice Cream” shows the reader that sometimes the common-place items of life--such as ice cream--can be transcendent and accentuate reality instead of mask it.

13 Stanza One Paraphrase Call the roller of big cigars, The muscular one, and bid him whip In kitchen cups concupiscent curds. Let the wenches dawdle in such dress As they are used to wear, and let the boys Bring flowers in last month's newspapers. Let be be finale of seem. The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream Call the big muscular guy who is rolling cigars and tell him to crank the ice cream machine. Let the maids sit in the kitchen and flirt with the boys. Let the yard-boys bring newspaper wrapped flowers to decorate the house. Let everything be as it should. The only beauty is in reality.

14 Stanza Two Paraphrase Take from the dresser of deal,
Lacking the three glass knobs, that sheet
  On which she embroidered fantails once
  And spread it so as to cover her face.
  If her horny feet protrude, they come
  To show how cold she is, and dumb.
  Let the lamp affix its beam.
  The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream Get the death sheet she has made out of that cheap dresser that’s missing the three knobs Cover her face If her calloused feet show (because the sheet is too small) it is no big deal because she is dead. Let the lamp shine on her and the reality of her death. The beauty of life lies in its reality.

15 Interpretation The first stanza deals with the sexual nature of man. Even though someone is dead in another room, the men still roll cigars, the girls still flirt, and the boys still come and go. The second stanza deals with the inevitability of death. The poor woman--so poor she had to make her own funeral sheet--made a covering that does not fit. Instead of allowing her face to show, we see her horny feet. It doesn’t matter, though, because she is dead now. Death is a part of life.

16 Rhyme Real/End Rhyme: The only rhyme occurs at the end of each stanza come/dumb, seem/cream and beam/cream. This suggests that Stevens did not want the poem to seem absurdist, but wanted it to be grounded in reality. It also causes the speed of the meter to increase and call attention to the theme. These are all masculine rhymes, which shows how he commanded the audience to accept life. (Lincoln)

17 Alliteration C: Call, cups, concupiscent, muscular, curds Creates a scratching and curt sound D: dawdle, dress, dresser, deal Creates a lilting sound E: seem, three, sheet, she Creates larger rhythm--elongates sounds S: cigars, muscular, curds, wenches, dress, used, as, boys, flowers, newspapers, seem, glass, knobs, fantails, spread, so, as, face, is, its Unites the rhythm H: her, horny Creates a smooth sound B: boys, bring, big, bid Creates a harsh and staccato sound The alliteration gives the poem a silly sound, which shows how the imagination compliments reality.

18 Imagery The imagery centers on a wake. The speaker of the poem is attending the wake of an old woman. The neighbors are gathering and treating it as if it were a party. The images presented are all ordinary. They either represent sex or decay. Sex: The muscular man, the flirting maids, the boys who bring flowers Decay: The horny feet, the funeral sheet, the rotting dresser

19 Other Poetic Devices Used
Enjambment is used and reflects a modern structure and lets the poem be read naturally instead of in a sing-song manner. Repetition: Emphasizing the central ideas Let be be finale of seem The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream. Symbol of the beam: the reality of the situation--light and knowledge shining on the reality of death--a spotlight on reality

20 Diction and Syntax The poem is written in a slightly heightened diction. Words such as “concupiscent” demand an astute reader. The poem is written as a series of commands. The speaker is the organizer of the wake. He takes command of the situation.

21 Attitude Because it is written as a series of commands, the attitude is one of authority and resolve. The speaker orders the others and is resolved the fact that the woman is dead.

22 Shifts The punctuation determines the rhythm and lends itself to the tone in that it is commanding. Points to be emphasized are set with periods. The crux of the poem is the line “The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream.” This line is 15-syllables and ends in a decisive masculine rhyme. There are only two stanzas. One focuses on sex and the other focuses on death. These are the two inevitable realities of life.

23 Theme The theme of the poem is to accept the realities of death and life. One must accept and celebrate the present, despite its absurdities. (Bates)

24 Works Cited Bates, Milton J. Wallace Stephens: A
Mythology of Self. 4/20/09. s_z/stevens/emperor.htm. Lincoln, Kenneth. Sing with the Heart of a Bear: Fusions of Native American Poetry. 4/20/ Vendler, Helen. The Columbia History of American Poetry. 4/20/09.

25 The Dancers This picture depicts a celebration despite the obvious degeneration of body.

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