What is the theme of the poem "Earthen Pots" by O. V. N. Kurup?

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literaturenerd's profile pic

literaturenerd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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The poem "Earthen Pots" speaks to the fact that the pots described in the poem lack identity and significant value given there are many pots about. The poet's, Kurup, choice of words used in the poem speaks to the theme of lack of identity or a search for identity.

The following words identify the pot's search for identity and knowledge: empty, not quite sure, inexhaustible, dismiss us, simply, cheap, hundreds like us, woe, loss, and depart.

The pot's story, as told within the lines of the poem explain the fears, apprehensions, and self-doubt the pots feel as the wait to be chosen to be used. Not feeling any different from another, the pots seem to understand what it is like to fail to have an identity over having one.

The pots also understand the difference between themselves and the "golden goblets" which are used for drinking wine. The pots have been dismissed by those who have chosen the goblets because of their contempt and scorn for the earthen pots.

The pots, therefore, understand the social class structure, the worthlessness associated with being cheap and easily broken, and the lack of individual identity.

gmuss25's profile pic

gmuss25 | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

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In addition to exploring the theme of lack of identity, Kurup also examines the theme of unknown destiny. Throughout the poem, Kurup illustrates indistinguishable earthen pots that are at the mercy of those customers who choose to buy them. The earthen pots question and discuss their destiny as they ponder what tomorrow will bring. Kurup portrays hundreds of earthen pots waiting for an unknown buyer to select them. He mentions that even the makers do not know who will buy each pot. After an unknown buyer selects their desired earthen pot, the other pots on the shelf collectively mourn the loss of the chosen pot. The poem ends with the pots questioning their destiny by asking, "When does our turn come to depart and when it comes, who would be the first to leave?" The theme of unknown destiny relates to the other issues presented throughout the poem. The pots are not in control of their lives and are at the mercy of the customers. Unable to determine their own destiny, they passively sit on the shelf and hope they are selected. This lack of control parallels the themes of subordination, worthlessness, and lack of identity.

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