Derek Walcott

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What are some of the themes in "The Walk"?

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"The Walk" describes a poet's struggle to reconcile himself with the pain and difficulty of the creative process. This is one of the poem's main themes. The speaker describes a "brain that tires," and when he writes a poem "each phrase (is) peeled from the flesh in bandages." This metaphor suggests that the creative process has become a painful one for the speaker. Each phrase reveals a wound, and the fact that the "bandages" need to be "peeled from the flesh" suggests that the wounds remain open, and raw. The process of writing a poem seems to expose the poet's wounds.

Another theme in the poem is the theme of home. The poet laments his "fidelity" to his own home, which he is unable or unwilling to stray too far from. He seems to compare himself to "the cats yawn(ing) behind their window frames," who he in turn compares to "lions in cages of their choice." The implication is that the poet too is, metaphorically, a lion who has willingly imprisoned himself within the confines of his own home. The lion here could be a symbol for the power and potential of the speaker's creativity, which he has unwittingly repressed by not venturing away from the comfort and familiarity of his own home.

Another theme in the poem is the speaker's feeling of melancholy, which seems to be a consequence of his frustrated and painful creative process. Walcott uses pathetic fallacy throughout the poem by using the weather to reflect this melancholy. There are, for example, repeated references to the rain. In the opening line of the poem the speaker describes a "hard rain," and later he describes "a sky sodden" and a "rain-drenched / grove." The repeated references to the rain create an oppressive, miserable atmosphere, suggesting that the speaker feels trapped and hopeless.

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