A Fixed Idea

Amy Lowell

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Amy Lawrence Lowell

Lowell was born in Brookline, Massachusetts on February 9, 1874.
She never attended college because her family considered it improper for a woman to do so. She compensated for this with avid reading and excessive book collecting. In just 12 years of writing, she published over 650 poems. She sometimes wrote sonnets, however, was an early adherent to the free verse method of poetry and is considered one of the major champions of this method. In the post-World War I years, Lowell was largely forgotten, but the women's movement in the 1970s and women's studies brought her works back. In addition, she was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry for What's O'Clock the year after she passed away, in 1926.

Interpretation of The Title

The title A Fixed Idea shows that the author is unable to keep her mind off of something. It is interpreted that the thing she is thinking of is another person.

why so gloomy?

Lowell basically sets the tone in her first line “What torture lurks within a single thought,” giving the reader an idea that this will likely be a sad or gloomy poem. Lowell talks about how remembering her joys bring her pain in the lines,

Dull remembrance taught
Remembers on unceasingly; unsought
The old delight is with us but to find
That all recurring joy is pain refined
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Imagery In A Fixed Idea

Lowell uses the imagery of a bird in a cage to illustrate her being stuck remembering and not being able to escape her memories. She depicts these ideas when she writes,

Become a habit, and we struggle, caught
You lie upon my heart as on a nest,
Folded in peace, for you can never know
How crushed I am with having you at rest

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Shifts in a fixed idea

Towards the end of the poem, Lowell writes that she is ready to accept what happened and wants to move on with her life so that she can be happy again. She mentions to this idea when she writes,

I love you so
You bind my freedom from its rightful quest.
In mercy lift your drooping wings and go.


This poem may likely be written on the subject of love in a relationship. However, Lowell's ability to walk away from this idea that is bothering her can apply to many aspects of life. Lowell's situation is even related to that of Chris McCandless because he abandoned what no longer brought him happiness, and pursued the life that he wanted. Commonly, people can in many ways relate to having a fixed idea, or a constant thought that can just slowly break them down. The fixed ideas of society, similar to Lowell, keeps people feeling like they are caged up birds. Therefore, for these reasons and more, the theme of this poem is truly being able to abandon something, or let go of something when it brings nothing but misery.
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