W. D. Snodgrass Questions and Answers

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What is the point of view in W.D. Snodgrass' poem, “Leaving the Motel”?

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Philip Arrington eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Upon first read, the poem "Leaving the Motel" by W.D. Snodgrass appears to be from the point of view of anyone who is checking out of a motel and wants to be sure that things are in order. However, if you read closely, you'll realize that it is written from the point of view of a pair of lovers who are meeting at the motel for a tryst, or an appointment between lovers. In this case, the affair seems to be illicit, and the lovers are fearful that they will be discovered. Several details in the poem support this.

First of all, the kids hollering near the pool will stay the night, implying that...

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aakanksha | Student

At the beginning, the poem’s point of view seems to be that of the motel’s owner who is trying to make sure every room is set properly. But as you progress, you realize that this cannot be right as the title is about leaving a motel and by the end of the poem, somebody is leaving forever, never to meet again. The motel’s owner would hardly be thinking about leaving the rooms in the motel in as orderly way as possible if s/he was leaving the motel for good. Perhaps the owner is going through difficult times and has run into financial troubles and so wants to rid him/herself of the motel? But that wouldn’t be a wise move at all! Why would you run away from a motel which one can easily sell to get one’s finances right? Perhaps it is an illegal establishment?

Speculations can run late into the night over the poem’s point of view being that of a motel owner.

However, if you read the poem carefully, you will be struck by the tone of secrecy and the hushed tone that suffuses the poem. Hidden beneath the lines is the urgent need to be careful because one wants to hide something. The point of view is that of a pair of lovers who have probably met at the motel secretly and are not leaving. They want to be sure of leaving no trace of their time at the motel. They also suggest to each other to refrain from taking any things from the motel either because, “We’ve nowhere we could keep a keepsake,” and that others would accidentally find them and then their secret might be in jeopardy.

There is not much information about the lovers. They could be having an extra marital affair or might have randomly met in the motel and decided to spend the night together which also explains the ending of the poem where they are uncertain of meeting each other again.

The poem’s tone is secretive and there is an almost methodical and detached matter in which the two carry out their parting in the poem.

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