The City-Planners is an indictment on the superficiality of progress, and the attribution of incorrigible rationality to the same. The poem views modern life as empty, artificial, and its inhabitants as robotic and lacking in spirit.
The land in the city has a great contrast with the rural land. The influx of people moving from rural to urban areas keeps on increasing to this day. Living in such an environment with only concrete, steel and buildings, man consequently becomes more mechanical, stressed and partially dehumanized. The absence of vast land in cities deprives the harmony that a huge area of empty land provides. This absence of land in cities is severely criticized by Margaret Atwood in this poem where "the houses in pedantic rows" shows lack of warmth.
The theme of this poem is perfection, uniformity, man’s attempts to control nature, and its lust of power (the city planners). As the poet moves about in a residential area, she is offended by the "sanities" of the area. The word 'sanities' may possess a double meaning here. Firstly, it may allude to the unnatural 'sanitariness' of the place. Secondly, it may denote the saneness of minds, or soundness that render them sophisticated, uniform and therefore boring. The "dry August sunlight" alludes to the province from which the speaker hails: Canada. The houses in rows appear too pedantic to be real. The trees have the appearance of being planted to render the scene picture-perfect. The levelness of surface further provokes the poetess as it appears to be a rebuke to the dent in their car door. There is no shouting there, no shatter of glass. No instinctive action takes place here: everything is after-thought and preplanned. There are no shouts here, no loud wants as people are economically well-off and complacent. The only noise is the rational whine of a power mower. It is that rationality that makes this noise 'a voice'. In the era of applied technology, this sound is more pleasing to the ears...
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