What is the central idea of "Ode to Clothes" by Pablo Neruda?
The late Chilean journalist, author, and poet Pablo Neruda left behind a rather unusual body of work that included a long list of “odes” to myriad and seemingly mundane items and activities such as socks, artichokes, the cat, bird-watching, and ironing. These odes range in tone from completely whimsical to thought-provoking. “Ode to Clothes” very much falls into the latter category. When Neruda begins his poem, it appears as though his “Ode to Clothes” will lean more towards the whimsical:
Every morning you wait,
clothes, over a chair,
to fill yourself with my vanity,
my love, my hope,
As the poem continues, however, the tone takes a more serious tone, with Neruda engaging more in a contemplation of existence than in a mere observation of a tomato or an artichoke. Indeed, the poem’s final, and protracted, line quickly and unexpectedly jerks the reader into the reality of Chilean politics in a manner reflective of Neruda’s socialist leanings. Note, in the first half of this passage, how he surprises the reader with a somewhat morbid suggestion that his eventual death will not come about peaceably:
day a bullet
from the enemy
will leave you stained with my blood
you will die with me . . .
Somber and/or morbid references were not unusual in Neruda’s “odes” poems (“Unfortunately, we must murder it: the knife sinks into living flesh . . .” [“Ode to Tomatoes”]), but the reference to his mortality, and the fact that Chile under dictatorship could be dangerous to more liberal-minded individuals, exerts itself in such a way that politics may not have been the main idea behind the poem, but it was certainly an idea being ruminated upon in the poet’s head.
check Approved by eNotes Editorial