Earle Birney

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What is the theme of "Winter Saturday" by Earle Birney?

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The theme of the poem "Winter Saturday" by Earle Birney is that people overlook the wonders that are right in front of them. In this poem, people in a farmhouse emerge after a winter storm. They are compelled by "dreams of light and sound" that await them in town, so they drive in the cold to town. On the way, they do not notice the wonders of the snow or the wind. The people are compared to seemingly blind creatures, such as caterpillars, and their car makes light that is like "tentacles." These images show that they are blind to what is really majestic and amazing in their lines of vision—the scenes of how powerful nature is. At the end of the poem, they return home in a soporific state and think that what they saw in town was disappointing. Again, they do not notice the wonders around them. They are blind to what is truly incredible and instead seek momentary and disappointing pleasure with manufactured entertainment like the movies.

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In "Winter Saturday," a (presumed) family has been cooped up for a while in their farmhouse following a snowstorm and is looking for an escape to something a little more exciting. One theme emerges: the creations of mankind will always disappoint when compared to the awe-inspiring hand of nature.

The people, themselves a creation of nature, are likened to caterpillars, emerging from the wood of their farmhouse all furred-up in winter clothing. They head for their "coccoon"—a Ford—to take them to town. They have "dreams" of light and sound, which is important to note.

This idea of having something more to entertain them is a fantasy: an illusion. As they travel, they "glide unamazed through snow" which has been "marbled and fluted" by the wind. Beauty and wonder surrounds them on this journey, but their dreams of man-made entertainment pulls them forward through the snow; they remain blind to the natural miracles. Continuing the comparison to a caterpillar, the people "hatch" from their car and "flutter" toward entertainment. However, in the end, the evening is a disappointment as "the town was less than its glow." And so they return to their farmhouse, lonely and drowsy.

The poem shows that people who cannot appreciate the novelties that nature provides will never be content with the creations of man.

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The theme of “Winter Saturday” by Earle Birney is unfilled expectations. The poem describes the emergence of folks on a Saturday night during a deep cold winter. They are in search of relief from cabin fever after a snow storm. The author uses the metaphor of caterpillars emerging to go into their cocoons as the people head to their vehicles.

Furred from the farmhouse

like caterpillars from wood

they emerge, the storm blown out,

and find in the Ford their cocoon.

With high expectations for a Saturday night in town, the people make their way from the warmth of their homes. They are dressed up, “furred,” and ready to take over the town for a night. While in town they flutter about like “moths.” Some of them attend movies or go to a local establishment to dance. By the end of the evening, they realize their expectations were not met. Winter still surrounds them as they head home on the cold windy night that portends of more snow.  

But lights fail, time is false,

the town was less than its glow.

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