Characters

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 324

"Anecdote of the Jar," a short poem by Wallace Stevens, contains only one character: the speaker of the poem. As the speaker of a poem is a voice that is sometimes distinct from the poet him or herself, this character communicates only through the three brief stanzas that make up the poem. The speaker of the poem employs the first-person voice, establishing him or herself in the first letter of the poem with the pronoun "I," enhancing the personal tone of the three stanzas that make up the poem as a whole.

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The speaker of the poem is the individual who commits the one significant action of the poem: he or she places the jar of the title in the wilderness of Tennessee. The reader of the poem does not learn much about the speaker aside from this action, as the focus of the poem changes from the speaker to the jar itself; what happens around the jar becomes more important than who placed it there, suggesting perhaps that the individuality of the speaker is less important than the wilderness that surrounds the speaker's jar.

Though many poems written by Wallace Stevens contain fairly straightforward language, analysis of Stevens's poetry can sometimes be challenging despite the apparent simplicity of its ideas. "Anecdote of the Jar," for example, asks more questions than it provides answers: why did the speaker, the only human character in the poem, put the jar in the wilderness in the first place? What does the manufactured jar represent when juxtaposed against the wildness of nature? And what might all of these questions mean to the speaker or even to the poet? The fact that the answers to these questions are not available to the reader may mean that the speaker of the poem does not have the answers him or herself, and that the answers are less relevant than perhaps the curiosity required to make the inquiry in the first place.

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