The first stanza of “i was sitting in mcsorley’s” introduces the setting of the poem and one of its themes: the distinction between the inside and outside worlds. These worlds are literally the inside and outside world of the bar and the city, but they are also the inside world of reflection—focusing on self and the outside world of perception—focusing on others.
The speaker describes the saloon and its “slobbering walls” as “snug and evil.” This seeming contradiction highlights the simultaneous attraction and repulsion the speaker holds for the place. Cummings’s trademark disregard for conventional grammar and syntax are effective here, as they help to depict a bustling, chaotic, and dirty atmosphere that is nonetheless comfortable. Adjective and adverbs such as “slobbering,” filthily,” “pompous,” and “witless” all contribute to this description.
This stanza, the longest of the poem, mixes bits of dialogue into its description of the sights and sounds of the bar. “Kiddo,” “Yep,” and “no sir” are all words or phrases that one might expect to hear in a bar, especially in exchanges between bartender and customer. The filmic equivalent to this stanza would be a scene from a Robert Altman film, in which simultaneous dialogues are captured. The overlapping of sight, sound, and smell give the description immediacy and highlight the many...
(The entire section is 925 words.)
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