Jimmy Jet and His TV Set

By: Shel Silverstein

Jimmy Jet and His TV Set

I'll tell you the story of Jimmy Jet-

And you know what I tell you is true.

He loved to watch his TV set

Almost as much as you.

He watched all day, he watched all night

Till he grew pale and lean,

From "The Early Show" to "The Late Late Show"

And all the shows between.

He watched till his eyes were frozen wide,

And his bottom grew into his chair.

And his chin turned into a tuning dial,

And antennae grew from his hair.

And his brains turned into TV tubes,

And his face to a TV screen.

And two knobs saying "VERT." and "HORIZ."

Grew where his ears had been.

And he grew a plug that looked like a tail

So we plugged in little Jim.

And now instead of him watching TV

We all sit around and watch him.


Literal Interpretation:

Stanza 1: I'm going to tell you a story that you already know is true because it applies to you.

Stanza 2: Jimmy Jet watched TV constantly.

Stanza 3 and 4: Jimmy watched TV so frequently that he turned into a TV.

Stanza 5: So now, instead of watching TV, Jimmy Jet is our TV.

Situation of the Poem:

  • The story is a narrative, telling the story of a boy who watched TV until he turned into a TV.
  • The poem is silly, yet conveys the speakers underlying sense of urgency and nervousness.
  • The poem has a reminiscent feeling.
  • The speaker is a fictional persona, who is looking back on the story.
  • The speaker directly addresses the reader, "I'll tell you the story of Jimmy Jet-"
  • Tone: Warning message/ premonition.
  • "Almost as much as you," "Instead of him watching TV, we watched him," "frozen, pale and lean, until, had been."
  • A confident, soft voice would be appropriate for someone reading the poem.

Structure of the Poem:

  • The poem is written in free form, to enhance the relaxed feeling of the story.
  • The stanzas are very uniform.
  • Ideas develop chronologically.
  • The poem circles around the idea of watching TV. The movement may also be interpreted as moving from carefree to regretful.
  • The poem is a total of 9 complicated sentences.
  • The sentences have normal noun-verb order, with no enjambment. Instead, the poem uses end-stopped lines.
  • The sentence structure allows for the poem to move like a story would; it also contributes to the uniform stanzas.
  • The title implies the idea that the story will be a narrative. The title is interpreted as having a happy connection between TV and Jimmy Jet.
  • The title has an internal rhyme "Jet," and "Set."

Language of the Poem:

  • The poem uses colloquial language to create a casual atmosphere.
  • The use of "loved," and "use to" provides a sense of mystery and emphasize that the story was in the past.
  • The words "pale and lean," describe and allow readers to visualize that Jimmy Jet was sickly and small.
  • The poem intertwines electronic/technological words with anatomical references:
  • "tuning dial," "antennae," "knobs," "TV tubes," and "plug"
  • "bottom," "chin," "hair," "brains," "face," and "ears"
  • By intertwining these words, the theme of the loss of livelihood to technology is accentuated.
  • The speaker alludes to "'The Early Show' to 'The Late Late Show'." This allusion spotlights Jimmy Jet's long hours watching the TV by referencing the two shows that are known to occur at opposite times of day.
  • The detail describing "Two knobs saying 'VERT' and 'HORIZ'" allow readers to visualize that the TV is an older style.
  • The use of parallelism in the line "He watched all day, he watched all night," also helps to reiterate Jimmy's obsessive TV habits.
  • The simile "plug like a tail," contributes to the theme of human like/anatomical characteristics being lost to artificial technology.

Musical Devices Within the Poem:

  • Internal Rhyme: "He watched til his eyes were frozen wide"
  • The rhyme scheme allows the poem to have a smooth, informal, funny/playful effect.
  • The words at the end of each line are stressed in order to provide the warning/wisdom feeling. It's as though the speaker wants to scare other children of becoming like Jimmy Jet.
  • Assonance: "plugged in little Jim."

Historical Context

Big image
  • The first electronic television was created by Philo Taylor Farnsworth in 1927
  • In 1939 RCA began distributing TV sets that were referred to as Picture Tubes.
  • By the 1990's people world wide were watching an average of 2.5 hours of TV a day.
  • Shel Silverstein's inclusion of words such as "antennae, tuning dial, TV tubes, and knobs," are likely an allusion to TV's early designs, such as the picture tube seen above. However, the extent of Jimmy's TV habits, are more likely an analogy to the 1990's, near the end of Shel Silverstein's career.
  • Though the two are historically inconsistent, Shel Silverstein likely wrote "Jimmy Jet and His TV Set" to raise awareness of the extent of habitual TV watching.

Who was Shel Silverstein (1930-1999)?

Born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, Shel Silverstein was known for both his musical and poetic talents. While serving in the United States Army in both Korea and Japan, Shel Silverstein became a recognizable cartoonist in the Stars and Stripes magazine. Between 1957 and the early 1970's, Silverstein's career and popularity began to take off; his artwork was featured in playboy magazine while he experimented with music. It was during this time that Silverstein released his first album, which he titled "Hairy Jazz." Shel Silverstein's adored children's books came after Ursula Nordstrom persuaded him to write literature for adolescents. Today, Shel Silverstein's most popular children's book is "The Giving Tree."

"Never explain what you do. It speaks for itself. You only muddle it by talking about it" -Shel Silverstein

Works Cited:

Shel Silverstein Biography. Bio, 2015. Web. 3 March 2015.

Silverstein, Shel. Where the Sidewalk Ends. New York City: Harper Collins, 1974. Print.

Stephens, Mitchell. History of Television. New York University. Web. 7 March 2015.

Explication by ANNA RAPPAPORT