“The Little Car” is written in free verse, its forty lines divided into six stanzas, excluding the calligram inserted in the middle of the poem. It is autobiographical, relating the feelings and impressions of Guillaume Apollinaire as he thinks back on his journey with friends from Deauville across the French countryside to Paris, where they enlisted to fight in World War I.
By providing the date, hour, and location of their departure, Apollinaire establishes a specific setting and moment in time. The mention of the “little car” in the third line, and in the title, gives a sense of significance to a usually trivial detail. The following one-line stanza tells that the men in the car numbered three, a number that appears two more times in the poem.
In the next stanza, the poem shifts to a more profound level as the speaker suggests that their seemingly innocuous journey actually symbolizes the end of an entire “era.” War is described in apocalyptic and prophetic metaphors as a wave of mysterious and otherworldly forces unleashed around the frail, helpless little car. Armies become “furious giants”; planes are “eagles” flying from their nests; submarines seem like “fish” ascending from the sea.
The poem shifts back to a more intimate focus in the fourth stanza. The “dogs” can be seen in two ways: literally, as dogs the speaker hears barking in the distance, or figuratively, as the dogs of war beckoning...
(The entire section is 509 words.)