In "Fog" by Carl Sandburg, how does his style affect the poem's meaning?

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perfectsilence eNotes educator| Certified Educator
"Fog," by Carl Sandburg, makes the most of very little through its use of specific stylistic effects. Firstly, the poem consists of only six lines, broken into two stanzas. The first stanza contains two lines, and the second stanza doubles this number. Each stanza is used to differing effect. The first stanza reads:
The fog comes 
on little cat feet. 
 This establishes the metaphor of fog as a cat. There are a number of effects of this choice. Cats are known to be agile, silent, and often subtle. They can enter a room without being noticed. To Sandburg, this is how the fog arrives. It is quiet, subtle, and suddenly there.

The second stanza furthers this metaphor, doubling the first stanza in length as specific catlike qualities are attributed to the fog.
It sits looking 
over harbor and city 
on silent haunches 
and then moves on.
Like a cat, the fog arrives to quietly survey the scene. It sits on high, as cats often do, "on silent haunches," further establishing its unobtrusive nature. It doesn't cause a disturbance or wreck havoc; it simply arrives, sits, and observes. Then, much like a cat, it simply moves on. This last statement gives a certain quality of indifference to the fog, much as cats are often thought to have regarding life in general.

One of the greatest qualities of poetry is to help the reader see things in new ways. One would not typically see fog as similar to a cat, but Sandburg's connection is valid. The qualities attributed to fog are similar to those of a cat, and the poem uses soft sounds, such as alliteration or approximate rhyme ("s" in the second stanza), to further the connection by making the poem as subtle and unobtrusive as the fog he writes about.
gbeatty eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Because there is so little to the poem—just a few lines, just a few words—the style is essential to its meaning and its effect. The core element of the style is the personification. The fog is made animate, willful, and familiar, by making it into a cat. This implies many other meanings that Sandburg skillfully leaves unsaid. For example, any little trailing wisp of fog can now be seen as the cat's tail, or as a bit of fur left behind. The simple vocabulary makes it accessible; the brief lines give a regular pacing to it.