William Carlos Williams

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What is the central idea of William Carlos Williams' poem “Gulls”?

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The central idea of the poem “Gulls” by William Carlos Williams is the speaker's choice to remain with the people as their singer as well as the fact that all things happen for a reason and that they should strive to live in peace with each other.

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In “Gulls,” William Carlos Williams presents a speaker who is, apparently, a wise person in the community, a teacher, a poet perhaps, who imparts lessons to his fellow townspeople. This speaker declares that he could go elsewhere. In fact, it would be more profitable for him if he did, and people are always whirring about, calling him to leave. Yet he remains. This is a strong statement about priorities. The speaker makes a choice and commits himself to being the “singer” for his community rather than reaching out for other experiences.

Further, the speaker wants his townspeople to know that everything happens for a reason. He asks them to recall the time when a storm drove strange birds into their area. The storms of life, he implies, may push people out of their comfort zones but also help them find new shelters and new opportunities.

The speaker does criticize the people a bit for their Easter hymns (and perhaps by extension for their Christianity in general). He says that their hymns “outraged true music,” suggesting perhaps that the people lack an appreciation of beauty but also that their views may be too narrow. Yet the speaker is not angry. He and the townspeople do not need to “leap at each other,” arguing because of their differences. They should be like the gulls who move “seaward very quietly,” seeking to be at peace.

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