Summary and Analysis
Pablo Neruda was a Chilean poet who lived from 1904 to 1973, winning the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, and he published three collections of poetic odes during his life. This particular poem, "Ode to My Suit," comes from the first collection of odes, entitled Elementary Odes, which was published in 1954. The poem is written in free verse, without a rhyme scheme or regular meter, and it takes the speaker’s suit of clothes as its subject. An ode typically praises its subject in an elevated style, so it might seem unusual that Neruda would compose such a poem for something as mundane as a suit that is worn every day. By doing so, he seems to suggest that even the most commonplace of objects can be worthy of notice, of praise, or of poetry.
The poem’s speaker begins by speaking directly to the suit, using a literary device called apostrophe—the addressing of someone or something that cannot respond as though it could. He personifies the suit by describing how it waits for him each morning; it waits for him to put it on, filling it up with not only his body but also with his hopes and loves (lines 1–5).
When he emerges, “only half awake,” from the shower (lines 7–8), the speaker dons the jacket and pants and feels “embraced / by [the suit’s] unfailing loyalty” (lines 12–13). He seems to credit the suit for its patience and fidelity to him, as though it could make a different choice. After dressing, the speaker takes his morning walk and “work[s] [his] way into [his] poetry” (line 15). While a poem’s author and its speaker are not necessarily the same person, this line implies that Neruda, himself, could be the speaker of this text. It is noteworthy that the speaker can only work his way into his poetry once he has showered and donned his suit; it is a crucial part of his preparations for the day, for his creativity.
Throughout his day, the speaker is “shap[ed]” and “confront[ed]” by the things he sees (lines 20–21)—”men, women, / events and struggles” (lines 18–19). He reflects that, while he is being shaped by the things he sees, he is “shaping” his suit (lines 25–26). The suit prepares him to be shaped by the world around him, and, as he is shaped, he shapes the suit in turn. Just as the speaker feels opened up and “creased” by the things that inspire him to write (line 23), he is “wearing [the suit] threadbare” (line 28). He tells his suit, “your life grows / in the image of my own” (lines 29–30). The speaker continues to personify his suit, giving it a life that progresses alongside his.
At line 31, the speaker addresses his suit with a simile : when the wind blows, “you flap...
(The entire section is 693 words.)