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Anecdote of the Jar by Wallace Stevens

Updated: Dec 30, 2020

Poem Introduction:

Anecdote of the Jar was written by Wallace Stevens and published in 1919. This poem was later added in his first book Harmonium which was issued in 1923. This three quatrains poem consists of many figures of speech like personification, enjambment, caesura, assonance and alliteration. The Jar in this 20th century poem is a Metaphor which may represent technology, industrialization, art or something which is powerful over the society or nature or humanity. This poem can be interpreted in many ways by using the speaker’s words. Come let’s see what he says. . . .


I placed a jar in Tennessee,   

And round it was, upon a hill.   

It made the slovenly wilderness   

Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,

And sprawled around, no longer wild.   

The jar was round upon the ground   

And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.   

The jar was gray and bare.

It did not give of bird or bush,   

Like nothing else in Tennessee.

Poem Summary:

This poem starts with a self-reference ‘I’, as the first person speaks. He says that he placed a round jar (a wide-mouthed container made typically of earthenware or glass) on the hilly environment of Tennessee, a state in the southeastern part of United States. Tennessee is a place surrounded by high mountains and rugged terrain with wilderness. Whereas the jar that was placed in-between made the untidy wilderness of the surrounding land to grow up. So, the wilderness was spread around in ungraceful manner towards the jar over the hill because the Jar dominated the ambiance. This lessens the nature wilderness everywhere. The Jar was round (repetition) on the ground which is tall and empty. The gray Jar (common spelling in the U.S., for grey) which is empty without anything else inside it took dominion over the nature.This Jar is not a bird or plant (parts of nature) to grow or re-create the fertile tropical lushness unlike everything else in the Tennessee hill.

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