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“Death is the Mother of Beauty” by W. Stevens Review Essay

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Updated: Sep 3rd, 2021

If we are discussing “Sunday Morning” by Wallace Stevens, then we need to mention the presence of the voice. This is a voice of an outside narrator. This narrator gives words to the feelings, experienced by a woman. We can observe the dramatic situation here. The woman is having “late coffee and oranges in a sunny chair” (Stevens, 1999) on a Sunday morning, she is not going to attend church. But then the woman is troubled with certain conflicting emotions about life, death, and Christianity.

The first unpleasant thought that darkens her morning is a solemn “procession of the dead” (Stevens, 1999) to Palestine. Her interaction with this procession symbolizes the journey that she makes in her mind. This interaction also sets the tone for later questioning of the idea of this poem.

Then there arises a series of certain rhetorical questions. These express her inner struggle. We can state that all these illustrate the disorganized nature of this woman’s thinking. The answer to her questions finally appears when she concludes that “divinity must live within herself”(Stevens, 1999). She realizes that her emotions “are the measures destined for her soul” (Stevens, 1999). That is why she feels certain hopefulness.

Then we can see the indirect comparing of Jove, the Roman “sky father” (Stevens, 1999), and Jesus. Here we can see a religious progression over the huge period. There is a usage of the second person here. I think that it invites the reader to think collectively with this woman to analyze her or his feelings about this religious progression and entire religion as well. There are some hypothetical questions that lead to a critical view of heaven. The third stanza ends with a feeling of certain wonderment about life after death.

Here woman speaks directly. This breaks the stream of certain narration when the fourth stanza begins. She is wondering about heavenly paradise, especially its permanence. It seems that she got an answer to her question with the help of the narrator through her consciousness. She becomes comforted by such fact as that memory is eternal and unlimited “by the march of the seasons” (Stevens, 1999). She thinks that the memory lasts much longer than any of such things as a heavenly pleasantry.

But woman’s contentment happened to be undermined by another direct utterance. It conveys her actual need to have an experience of “imperishable bliss” (Stevens, 1999) in her lifetime. We can see that her worries and apprehensions are answered with the keystone idea that “Death is the mother of beauty” (Stevens, 1999). Although “she makes the willow shiver in the sun” (Stevens, 1999) and “strews the leaves of sure obliteration in our paths” (Stevens, 1999), death appointed to be a certain sole fulfiller of a person’s dreams and desires. We can state that in this way, death comforts the woman.

Then the reader has to analyze the consequences of such phenomena as an unchanging paradise. On one hand, we can state that the key point of heaven is to embody certain imperishable bliss. On the other hand, we can assert that without the change of death paradise will never appear to us beautiful. So we can say that the unchanging paradise is flawed because it might be easily taken for granted. While repeating such statement as “death is the mother of beauty”(Stevens, 1999), we can meet the religious questioning with the word “mystical”, which implies a certain anti-Christian sentiment here, followed it this period. We can see that the use of such a verb as “devise” in line 89 of “Sunday Morning” indeed challenges the existence of heaven outside of our minds. But there is still a hope of a reunion with those whom we love after death.

In the end, the woman is still suspended in a certain disorganized state of mind. But we can see that she has a feeling of acceptance of the existed ambiguity of human life that can not be replaced with such things as peace of mind and some hopes of certain happiness.

Works Cited

Stevens, Wallace. Sunday Morning. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1999.

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IvyPanda. 2021. ""Death is the Mother of Beauty" by W. Stevens Review." September 3, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/death-is-the-mother-of-beauty-by-w-stevens-review/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) '"Death is the Mother of Beauty" by W. Stevens Review'. 3 September.

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