”Boy at the Window” by Richard Wilbur
- Pages: 4
- Word count: 882
- Category: Poetry
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Reading Response to a Poem – Boy at the Window by Richard Wilbur In Richard Wilbur’s poem Boy at the Window, the narrator tells of a boy seeing a snowman left outside in the cold, with darkness approaching, and relates the boys’ feelings for the dangers of the night that the snowman must face. The narrator also illustrates the perspective of the snowman, and it’s feelings for the boys’ fears. I interpret the poems’ theme as…pity for another. It is a lyrical poem in which the author engages ones imagination and produces feelings in its’ reader. It appears to have a songlike quality. The first element of interest in this poem is setting. Richard Wilbur, the author, begins the poem from the perspective of a boy seeing a snowman “standing all alone”, “in dusk and cold”. The use of this language gives the idea that the boy felt the snowman was lonely and in an uncomfortable, bleak situation. He fears for the snowman. He weeps hearing the wind preparing for “a night of gnashings and enormous moan”. Gnashing, meaning to grind one’s teeth together, normally as a sign of anger, is used here to instill a sense of anger and agony.
The “enormous moan” brings to mind loud moaning sounds that are scary to the boy. The first stanza ends with the narrator talking of the snowman returning the boy “a god-forsaken stare / As outcast Adam gave to Paradise”. This religious reference refers to the boy being in “paradise” while the snowman, compared to Adam, has been cast out into the “non-paradise”. The poem ends, again describing the setting where the boy is as “such warmth, such light, such love”. This language use creates a warm, safe, loving atmosphere or setting for the poem. Another key element of interest for me was characterization. The two characters, the boy and the snowman, each have feelings for the other. The first stanza of the poem is narrated from the viewpoint of the boy. When he sees the snowman standing outside it is “more than he can bear”. This incites a heart wrenching feeling. One can imagine the overwrought boy, as he is fearful of what will befall the snowman over night. “The small boy weeps”, incurs a sense of sadness in the child and an innocent youthfulness at the simple thoughts that he has. The last line of the poem, which is from the snowman’s perspective talks about the boys surrounding practically glowing, radiating warmth, as well as “so much fear”.
This brings to mind events that the innocent boy may have experienced and is now effecting his perception of the snowman’s situation. The snowman’s character is built throughout the poem. In the first stanza he is described as “the pale-faced figure with bitmen eyes” Bitmen is a term for coal. Coal being black and shiny gives the snowman an almost eerie feel. The reference to him having a “God-forsaken stare” implies sadness, a sense of doom, of abandonment. The poem continues in the second stanza, the perspective of the snowman, describing his character as “content” and “moved to see the youngster cry”. These characteristics show a sense of calm about the snowman as well as feelings of care and concern. The poem cites that he “melts enough to drop from one soft eye / A trickle of the purest rain, a tear”. This line shows warmth or life of the snowman if he can “melt enough”. The underlying statement here is that he is not a frozen, lifeless thing, but more humanlike. His eyes are now referred to as “soft”, changing the initial image of hard as coal.
The reference to the “purest rain, a tear” implies purity, goodness, cleanliness, and the tear represents the feelings that are within this snowman character. Throughout the poem the author’s use of language presents an amazing tone, creates a vivid setting and builds believable characters. His use of such words as “dusk” and “cold” along with “gnashings” and “enormous moan” set the scene, where the snowman is, as one of desolate, scary, dreary, unsafe, with loud agonizing noises. His descriptive language such as, “weeps”, “tearful sight”, “more than he can bear” creates an image of a fearful boy, an innocent youthful character, who is caring and concerned, yet is too young to understand.
The snowman is described through use of language by such terms as “pale-faced”, “God-forsaken”, “content”, “frozen water”, “melts”, “purest rain”. These conjure up a cold, frozen, abandoned snowman that possesses humanlike qualities. I enjoyed the flow of this poem; it’s lyrical form, and its ability to induce feelings in me. I can envision the boy’s character, his feelings and concern clearly. He is a young innocent child, who has experienced fear, possible at night, and is concerned for the well being of the snowman. I can also visualize the snowman seeing the boy inside the warm house and feeling pity for his fearful friend. The setting is vivid and the theme is poignant throughout.
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