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7The Emperor of Ice-Cream: A Command of Acceptance Wallace StevensThe Emperor of Ice-Cream: A Command of Acceptance
8ThesisThe 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!
9Wallace 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 sideDied in 1955(Wikipedia)
10His Poetic IdealsStevens work is primarily concerned with the following:How the Imagination can transform the ordinarySupreme Fiction--Centering the Imagination on RealityReligion is a Man-Made CreationPoets contain a higher power than the normal manPoetry takes the place of religion(Vendler)
11ModernismUnlike 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.
12The 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.
13Stanza One ParaphraseCall the roller of big cigars,The muscular one, and bid him whipIn kitchen cups concupiscent curds.Let the wenches dawdle in such dressAs they are used to wear, and let the boysBring flowers in last month's newspapers.Let be be finale of seem.The only emperor is the emperor of ice-creamCall 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.
14Stanza 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-creamGet the death sheet she has made out of that cheap dresser that’s missing the three knobsCover her faceIf 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.
15InterpretationThe 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.
16RhymeReal/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)
17AlliterationC: Call, cups, concupiscent, muscular, curdsCreates a scratching and curt soundD: dawdle, dress, dresser, dealCreates a lilting soundE: seem, three, sheet, sheCreates larger rhythm--elongates soundsS: cigars, muscular, curds, wenches, dress, used, as, boys, flowers, newspapers, seem, glass, knobs, fantails, spread, so, as, face, is, itsUnites the rhythmH: her, hornyCreates a smooth soundB: boys, bring, big, bidCreates a harsh and staccato soundThe alliteration gives the poem a silly sound, which shows how the imagination compliments reality.
18ImageryThe 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 flowersDecay: The horny feet, the funeral sheet, the rotting dresser
19Other 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 ideasLet be be finale of seemThe 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
20Diction and SyntaxThe 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.
21AttitudeBecause 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.
22ShiftsThe 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.
23ThemeThe theme of the poem is to accept the realities of death and life. One must accept and celebrate the present, despite its absurdities.(Bates)
24Works 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 aBear: Fusions of Native American Poetry. 4/20/09.www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/s_z/stevens/emperor.htm.Vendler, Helen. The Columbia History of American Poetry. 4/20/09. illinois.edu/maps/poets/s_z/stevens/emperor.htm.
25The Dancers This picture depicts a celebration despite the obvious degeneration of body.