(Masterpieces of American Literature)

“Chuy” is an autobiographical poem that portrays the earliest formative experiences of the speaker. The poem is divided into separate sections and moves from youthful initiation to oblivion.

The first section of “Chuy” presents the young speaker alone in the landscape announcing his presence and causing changes in his environment. For example, both birds’ nests and “pocked fruit” drop into his arms. Such fruitfulness, however, contrasts with his poverty. His lunch bag contains only air from his lungs. Chuy then observes the stars, and a voice announces that he is “blessed/ In the name/ Of a violin.” At the end, however, what transforms him is not nature; it is, instead, a sexual initiation with his first “touch of breast.” The fullness of this image reverses the emptiness of his impoverished life and the distance of the stars. He has been acted on by nature in the poem, but the touch is both a conscious act and a transforming one.

The fourth section of the poem further deals with a young man’s experience with women. This time, however, it is not an actual sexual experience but an idealistic longing that is released by his vision of a “girl/ On a can of peas.” He pictures her as the object of a knightly quest; in contrast, he portrays himself as a poor squire whose wrists are “shackled in sores.” At the end of this section, Chuy gains what solace he can by using his knife to pop a pea into his mouth. The section...

(The entire section is 512 words.)


(Masterpieces of American Literature)

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