What are the theme and meaning of the poem "The Telephone" by Edward Field?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The theme of "The Telephone" is that the telephone is a lifeline.

To the speaker, the telephone is a marvelous "appliance" which connects him to friends in a valuable way in his large and impersonal city:

It tells me that I am in the world and wanted
It rings and I am alerted to love or gossip
Although the telephone is a technical device, the speaker imbues it with warmth because it transmits love and friendship through its lines and receiver. His feelings, reflective of many in a time when there was no other technology for personal communication, are expressive of his delight in being able to hear the voices of friends or his lover. With the telephone he can feel connected to his loved ones and thereby overcome the anonymity of subways and buses where people do not converse, but act as automatons. Without the telephone, he feels isolated, like "a bear in a cave." He awaits with eagerness the "spring" that the telephone brings him in the "shadowy winter" of his urban isolation.
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beateach | Elementary School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator

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Edward Field’s poem “The Telephone” is included in his book Counting Myself Lucky: Selected Poems, 1963-1992. The poem is a commentary on the invention of the telephone and how it connected people who were isolated by their city living conditions. The theme of the poem is self-identity and happiness through an object in one’s life. The narrator explains how the telephone made him feel connected to others, how it gave him pleasure to share gossip, and to stay connected. As he says, “Without it I was like a bear in a cave.” It seems the telephone gave him so much pleasure that he goes from feeling like a solitary bear hibernating to a person enjoying the spring sunshine when it rings. The promise of sharing with other human beings through his inanimate object, this glorious invention allows him to hear “the human voice and the good news of friends.”

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