Summary (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Although not blatantly political in focus, “Out of Three or Four People in a Room” is clearly informed by Amichai’s experiences in war. Both of its stanzas open with the same refrain: “Out of three or four people in a room/ One always stands at the window.” However, each stanza regards the figure of which it speaks, the “One,” in unique but related terms.
In stanza one, the figure, here deliberately unnamed, gazes from a window on the ravages of a just-concluded battle. The figure witnesses “the evil among thorns/ And the fires on the hill,” left only with an emptiness that appears to be the only tangible result of the carnage. He observes that before the battle “people . . . went out whole,” only to return after the conflict “Like small change to their homes.” Clearly, Amichai’s metaphor expresses the ambiguity many Israelis felt in the wake of their “victory.”
By stanza two, the poem’s political imagery becomes even more blatant. No longer faceless, the poem’s central figure takes on both a face and a gender. “His hair dark above his thoughts,” the figure adopts the identity of a soldier, complete with “kit bag” and “rations.” He seeks a reason for fighting, but, like his desperate and disillusioned cohort in the opening stanza, is ultimately left only with hollow epithets to console him.
Bibliography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
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Abramson, Glenda The Writing of Yehuda Amichai: A Thematic Approach. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1989.
Alter, Robert. After the Tradition: Essays on Modern Jewish Writing. New York: Dutton, 1969.
Alter, Robert. “Israel’s Master Poet.” The New York Times Magazine, June 8, 1986, 40.
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