The Portable Phonograph by Walter Van Tilburg Clark

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What are the themes in The Portable Phonograph by Walter Van Tilburg Clark? This is a study guide question posted by eNotes Editorial. Please clearly identify at least 3 themes and devote a separate...

What are the themes in The Portable Phonograph by Walter Van Tilburg Clark? This is a study guide question posted by eNotes Editorial. Please clearly identify at least 3 themes and devote a separate paragraph to a discussion of each one

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The Significance of Art

When Dr. Jenkins realizes that the world is ending around him, he chooses to save what he considers the best efforts of mankind. He saves Shakespeare, Dante, Melville, and the Bible. He saves music that he can sparingly listen to in his world of devastation. The doctor acknowledges that many would find his choices "impractical" as a means of survival, but he does not regret them. While things with more practical value could have possibly lengthened his life, these artistic choices give life to his soul.

Indeed, to prove this point, one of the other men comments that his "brain becomes thick, like [his] hands" due to the absence of beauty and thought in his life. He confesses that he wants paper so that he can write, but there is no paper. The human soul has a need to find beauty—to create things of lasting significance and to make meaning from the confusing world through artistic forms. Without this, the world is devoid of hope entirely.

As it stands, the men...

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