Summarize the poem "The City Planners" by Margaret Atwood.

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

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Margaret Atwood's poem "The City Planners" is written in seven stanzas. The first two stanzas are much longer than the remaining five, and these stanzas provide the main reasoning behind Atwood's disdain for the construction of a city.

In the first stanza, Atwood tells the reader about how she sees the city as she drives around on a Sunday in August. She tells of the city in regards to its offensive sanitaries (pedantic rows of houses, sanitary trees, with only the sound of a mower cutting almost mathematical lines in the grass of lawns).

The second stanza continues to describe the bland and thoughtless planning that went into the building of the city homes. The homes are described as being all even and smelling of the same exact things.

The third stanza shows the reader what is to come of the homes: "the future cracks of the plaster"; while the fourth stanza continues to speak to the inevitable crumbling of the homes.

It is not until the sixth stanza that Atwood comes to name those she blames for the lack of imagination and overall sanitary building of the homes. For Atwood, the planners seem to be more concerned with boxing themselves in, "concealed from each other," than they are with creating beauty.

The seventh and eighth stanza go on to prove Atwood's dislike of those who planned the city. She states that they are simply sketchers who wish to create order in a place of madness.

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apekshag0909 | eNotes Newbie

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The City Planners By Margaret Atwood

Like ‘The Planners’ by Boey Kim Cheng, ‘The City Planners’ by Margaret Atwood also addresses the effects of rapid urbanization and the monopoly of the planners.

1-2) Atwood describes the sights that meet her eye as she cruises along a residential complex on a bright August Sunday.

3-4) She feels offended by the uniformity she sees and the fact that the people living in cities accept the uniform structures as their homes.

5-6-7-8) She describes rows of houses surrounding landscapes that are all predetermined to look alike and she even personifies these structures by giving them the ability to scorn (to make fun of) a slight dent in her car door! She finds the level of uniformity very amusing but irritating at the same time.

9-10) Atwood finds it very ironic that unlike the homes in the olden days, she is unable to pick up any sounds or movements of people living in these structures. She strains her ears to try and hear a shout or the breaking of glass.

11-12) The only sound the poet picks up is that of a lawnmower that seems to be following the dictates of the planners by cutting through the grass in predetermine lines.

13-14) She says that the driveways of these residences are so neatly planned that they are guaranteed to prevent accidents or chaos because they are so uniform.

15-16) Much to Atwood’s disgust, the roofs of all these houses are inclined at the same angle to keep the hot sun away.

17-18-19-20-21) The poet notices that the only things that differentiate one house from the other are things like the smell of different oils in the garages, a sudden splash of paint which she compares to a bruise and other differentiating factors like the way the plastic hoses are coiled.

22-23-24-25) However Atwood believes that if one were to carefully stare beyond the windows, at the landscape that lies behind these ‘homes’, it is easy to see cracks in the structures. Metaphorically she refers to how the money spinning real estate dealers build for the sake of monitory gain, without thinking about the safety and security of the structures or the people residing in them.

26-27-28) She believes that some day in the near future the houses will capsize and disintegrate into vast seas of clay just like the polar glaciers that no one is noticing at the moment.

29-30-31-32-33) Margaret Atwood, like Boey Kim Cheng, calls ‘The City Planners’ political conspirators. She calls them insane, their only interest being swindling people of hard earned money. She says that these people operate from and build on land that is not even surveyed for proper and legal real estate development. She says that they work independently and individually, and cut off from one another, thus living in their private worlds where they conspire and plan profitable investments.

34-35-36) Atwood believes that these political conspirators are constantly planning and identifying new suburbs that they can create in all directions, to make their money. She believes that they claim and reclaim landscapes that actually need to be preserved.

37-38) The poet reveals her disgust for the city planners who are constantly creating new suburbs and congesting the city in their crazy quest for power. Each one lives in a private world and the only intent is to give into their incessant need to profit from everything they lay their hands on.

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