Themes and Meanings

(Critical Guide to Poetry for Students)

Thematically, “‘Yes’ and ‘No’” is a relatively simple poem, with two main themes already hinted at in the preceding discussion of the poem as an allegory.

The first of these is the age-old theme of love between a man and a woman. Considering the fact that Yevtushenko has written many poems concerning this human emotion, love as a primary theme in this poem imposes itself. It is interesting that the lover (most likely a man, although it is not explicit, and does not need to be) does not even mention the object of his love, let alone describe her. He is more concerned about where his love either languishes (in the city of No) or triumphs (in the city of Yes). It is as though both he and his lover are victims of invisible external forces and restrictions that have been imposed upon them. These restricting forces compel the woman to behave like a robot, giving the same negative answer again and again. Thus the rejected lover places all the blame on the circumstances.

For a time, he seems to be compensated in the city of Yes, where everything is the opposite. Yet even though he thinks he has satisfied his emotional needs with other women, instead of enjoying the bliss of the plenty, he returns to the site of his defeat, only to move to easier conquests in the city of Yes when he is rejected again. It is as though he has become a prisoner of his own feelings, unable to extricate himself, resigning himself willingly and knowingly to the...

(The entire section is 510 words.)