Themes and Meanings

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Last Updated on May 12, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 419

As Voznesensky skillfully demonstrates with “The Last Train to Malakhovka,” the meaning of his work reaches outside of the boundary of a single poem. His individual poems function as discrete units, but they are interconnected, and meaning expands from specific to general. Not surprisingly then, the poet’s particular concern with the sexual objectification of women, reflected in his sympathetic treatment of the young girl in “The Last Train to Malakhovka,” is but one manifestation of what he views as a general depersonalization afflicting all who live in technologically advanced societies. In this poem, as in much of his other work, trains represent the ill effects of mechanization, speeding in a single, predetermined direction, physically separating humans from the natural world and from one another, and finally threatening individual identity. Images of separation and fragmentation abound: the segregation of passengers, the failure of the poet to gain the attention of the young men, the namelessness and facelessness of the young woman. It is this fragmentation, however, not human nature itself, that accounts for the asocial behavior of the young men on the train, their potential for violence, and their disregard for others.

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In spite of the sordid world and sorry beings he depicts in poems such as “The Last Train to Malakhovka,” Voznesensky seems to believe that humans are essentially good and that poetry can reveal that goodness. Poetry can work against depersonalization and fragmentation by reasserting the individualized voice. However, to speak authentically, the poet must continually seek new forms of expression, lest the uniqueness of his voice be stifled by lack of variation. By maintaining his individuality in this way, the poet can identify safely with others without loss of self. At this point, he or she can communicate effectively. Even a simple verse such as “First Frost” can succeed because the poet’s sentiment is genuine. Although the young thugs in the train cannot appreciate his sincerity, the young woman who does is transformed, and her transformation causes a reaction from the others.

The optimism of the poem’s closing is qualified, however, by the circularity of the structure and by the fleetingness of the image. Poetry may cleanse and revitalize, but the effects are immediate and temporary. The poet’s work is ongoing, and in this respect he is much like the “workaday citizens” on the train. Neither heroic figure nor tortured soul, Voznesensky’s poet retains his ordinariness and, with it, the connection to his fellow travelers essential to the success of his mission.

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