Explication of “Nude Descending a Staircase”
Kennedy’s “Nude descending a Staircase” focuses on a woman walking down a flight of stairs while someone is watching her. The poem begins by introducing and describing the woman’s motions in the first stanza. The second stanza introduces those that are looking at her. The second stanza has been written to be twice as long as the first stanza, indicating that it could or should be separated in half. Towards the end of the second stanza, the poem describes her descending as a gradual process and leaves the woman pondering on the last step.
This poem is written in Iambic form, where on unstressed syllable is followed by one stressed syllable. The poem follows the pattern of a four feet (tetrameter) form. It also contains text that rhymes in every other line. It contains assonance and end rhymes. Words like “thigh” and “by”, “wears” and “stairs” are assonantal. Words like “rind” and “mind”, “cape” and shape” are rhymes. The poem is also written in an anticipating tone, because it leaves the reader wondering what the woman will do once she reached the last step. As if she is noticing that she is being observed is flattering to her, thus taking her time and pausing to give her audience a better show.
This poem also leaves the reader wondering who the narrator could be. One key word “we”, indicates that it is more than one person. Since they are spying from underneath the banister, I would have to say it’s a young boy and his friend. They are mesmerized by the fact that she is naked and probably this being the first time they see a naked woman, emphasizes that they are young boys. They interpret her decent very slow and detailed as if she is coming down in slow motion. But this can also be their perception of her descent. It is possible that she is walking down at a normal pace, but because this is a possibly new event to them, they are seeing every details of her body as she moves. The second stanza, where it...
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