Study Guide

A Thirst Against

by Linda Gregg

A Thirst Against Themes


Order and Disorder
This poem uses the opposing concepts of order and disorder to show the two sides of human nature. The orderly side appreciates logic and reason, while the disorderly side is driven by intuition. As Gregg puts it, humans require both, but in different ways, which she likens to the twin drives of hunger and thirst. Allowing the desire for order to take over would be counter-productive because only the mind can find and appreciate order, but the world does not exist in the mind. That is why it is described as “the greater, the wetter, the more tired, the more torn”—all concepts that the mind would fail to add to an idealized version of the world, but which nonetheless appear in the real, non-idealized version. The two characters from Shakespeare’s Hamlet to which the poem refers are both doomed by following extremes and failing to obey the urges toward order and disorder in the right proportions. Hamlet himself severs his human connections and tries to understand the world in logical terms, while Ophelia goes insane by following her emotions. “One too heavy, one too frail” is the way the poem sums up their deaths, “both lost.”

The unbalanced relationship between order and disorder is summed up by the phrase “All singing, no song.” A sense of order can tell a person how to sing, but not what to sing. To create a worthwhile song requires both logic and inspiration. Implied in the turn of phrase that Gregg uses is the idea that a song without a singer would be just as useless. The necessity for balance is also clear in the metaphors she uses in the very first lines to explain why humans need both order and disorder, as it would be dangerously foolish to obey one’s hunger or one’s thirst, but not both.

Urban Blight
The last six lines of “A Thirst Against” describe an urban situation, using it as an example of a place built by the human sense of order and destroyed by the natural tendency of things to fall into disorder, which is called “entropy.”...

(The entire section is 836 words.)