Anecdote of the Jar Questions and Answers
by Wallace Stevens

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What symbolism in "Anecdote of the Jar" portrays the relationship between humanity and nature?

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The jar in this poem is a powerful symbol of man's desire to control what he cannot possibly contain. We see this impossibility signified in the very first line, in which the speaker says that he has placed a jar "in Tennessee." A jar is something into which other things are generally placed; we might more usually expect to hear that someone has placed something in a jar. In this instance, however, Tennessee is of course too large to fit into a jar, with the result that the speaker has placed a jar into it -- "jar" here having a double meaning. As well as signifying a "round" container, the speaker has symbolically also placed a "jar" in Tennessee, where "jar" means something harsh or grating, a sudden unpleasant effect caused by something which does not belong. The speaker, a human, has introduced into Tennessee some element which does not belong there and which cannot perform its ordinary function because Tennessee is too big to contain. Nevertheless, the speaker, representative of...

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