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Themes

Definitions of Selfhood

One topic Pablo Neruda explores through this ode is the self. More specifically, the poem’s speaker interrogates what constitutes who a person is and where the line defining the self is drawn. At the beginning of the poem, the speaker describes his suit as a wrapping not only for his physical body, but for his intangible elements as well:

[the suit is] waiting on a chair
to be filled
by my vanity, my love,
my hope, my body. (Lines 2–5)

The speaker thinks about his suit as being intrinsically connected to his inner life, as well as his outer appearance. It should be noted that in his list of “vanity,” “love,” “hope,” and “body,” “body” comes last, as if the suit shares greater affinity with his soul and only covers his body as an afterthought. He goes on to describe a mutual partnership between his self and the suit:

events and struggles
constantly shaping me,
constantly confronting me . . .
and in the same way,
suit,
I am shaping you,
poking out your elbows,
wearing you threadbare,
and so your life grows
in the image of my own. (Lines 19–30)

The speaker is comparing how the suit hangs on his body to the way his soul hangs in the world. In a deeper sense, he is saying that the suit and his soul are shaping each other. He emphasizes this point a few lines later by saying to the suit, “you flap and hum / as if you were my soul” (lines 32–33).

The speaker feels no disconnect between himself and his suit, which he describes as “cling[ing] / to [his] bones” (lines 35–36). When he talks about death, he says “[the suit] would die with me” (line 47), an indication that without his soul, the suit would not exist in the same way. The speaker drops all subtext in the last few lines of the ode and declares to his suit:

you embrace me and I forget you,
because we are one being
and shall be always
in the wind, through the night,
the streets and the struggle,
one body,
maybe, maybe, one day still. (Lines 62–68)

By suggesting the suit and his self are one being, the poem’s speaker is questioning the extent of the soul, and where it could end. He could be saying that anything he loves so much as his favorite suit must certainly be a part of himself, or that something—even an inanimate object—that has been so close to him for so long cannot be distinguished from who he is.


Gratitude for Everyday Objects

Pablo Neruda’s “Ode to My Suit” overflows with gratitude. The speaker addresses the poem directly to his suit—“Every morning, suit, / you are waiting on a chair . . .” (lines 1–2)—which personifies the suit from the opening lines. It also establishes a personal connection between the speaker and his suit and creates a sentimental moment between them.

After commenting that the suit waits for him “every morning,” the speaker states that:

. . . embraced
by your unfailing loyalty
I take my morning walk,
work my way into my poetry . . . (lines 13–15)

The speaker is describing a relationship of utmost trust, going so far as to imply that his suit’s “unfailing loyalty” is part of what makes him able to write poetry.

The speaker’s thankfulness for the loyalty of his suit is touched upon later in the poem, when he commends the suit that “in bad moments / . . . cling[s] / to my bones . . .” (lines 34–36). The speaker’s suit is there for him even in the loneliest, most lugubrious moments of his life. He thanks his suit because it has seen him through so many difficult moments. He describes their relationship to the suit itself, explaining that

That’s why
every day
I greet you
with...

(The entire section is 941 words.)