Anecdote of the Jar

by Wallace Stevens

Anecdote of the Jar

I placed a jar in Tennessee,

And round it was, upon a hill.

It made the slovenly wilderness

Surround that hill.


The wilderness rose up to it,

And sprawled around, no longer wild.

The jar was round upon the ground

And tall and of a port in air,


It took dominion everywhere.

The jar was gray and bare.

It did not give of bird or bush,

Like nothing else in Tennessee.

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About Wallace Stevens

Wallace Stevens was born into the world on October 2, 1879 in Reading, Pennsylvania (Ironic, isn't it?). Not only was he a successful poet, but also a successful lawyer. In his early years, he went to Harvard but did not graduate. He later went to New York Law school and graduated from there. Stevens began writing while in college, but his writing career did not take flight until later in his life when he was in his 30's. While writing, he also practiced law and was eventually named the president at the firm in which he worked. In most opinions, Stevens' best pieces came later in his life when he was retired from his law practices. Among his most popular works are, "Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction" and "The Auroras of Autumn," as well as many others. You can read more about Wallace Stevens at http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/s_z/stevens/bio.htm
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Interpretation

  • "I placed a jar in Tennessee
And round it was, upon a hill.

It made the slovenly wilderness

Surround that hill."

This is a great example of personification. The jar is "making" the wilderness surround the hill that it is on top of and in charge of.


  • "The wilderness rose up to it,
and sprawled around, no longer wild.


The jar was round upon the ground

And tall and of a port in air."

This stanza shows the power of the jar. The jar has invaded the territory of the wilderness. The characteristics of the jar help to describe and highlight the power and authority of the jar.


  • "It took dominion everywhere.
The jar was gray and bare.


It did not give of bird or bush,

Like nothing else in Tennessee."

This stanza highlights the differences between the jar and the wilderness and gives the jar a darker look than before. The jar and wilderness have very different qualities as seen in this stanza.

You can read more about the interpretation of this poem starting at http://www.shmoop.com/anecdote-of-the-jar/stanza-1-summary.html

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Theme

This poem is not one with a very clear theme. Obviously, it's about a jar, but that does not really count as a theme. In this poem, the events that happen around the jar and because of the jar are highlighted. This jar is particularly seen to be able to control the wilderness around it, which alludes to the fact that the theme of this poem is power between manmade creations and nature. "The wilderness rose up to it," shows that the wilderness initially had power, but "Sprawled around, no longer wild." This shows a shift of power from the wilderness to the jar; from nature to the manmade creation. This theme is seen repeatedly in the lines of this poem. You can read more about the theme of this poem at http://www.bachelorandmaster.com/britishandamericanpoetry/anecdote-of-the-jar.html
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