Thirteen Ways of Self-Questioning

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Thirteen Ways of Self-Questioning
The poem “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird” is written by Wallace Stevens. It contains thirteen sections; each section provides us a picture that is centered by the element of blackbird. Blackbird in the poem signifies people’s consciousness. So this poem wants to tell us that every person has a perspective to look at the world. It questions our process of thought to understand the world, and reminds us realize the problem of it. In “The Language of Paradox” by Cleanth Brooks, he introduces the notion of paradox and its application in poetry. In Stevens’ poem we can also find how he uses the device of paradox to raise the question for many times, and also the use of paradox leads us to reconsider our thought. Stevens displays several common understanding in human being. According to Brooks’ viewpoint, “Our prejudices force us to regard paradox as intellectual rather than emotional, clever rather than profound, rational rather than divinely irrational” (Brooks 58). The first section is an introduction of the whole poem: “Among twenty snowy mountains, / The only moving thing / Was the eye of the blackbird” (I). This is to tell us the nature is huge, but with it the only existence that is conscious about it is human consciousness. Twenty snowy mountains stand for the broad natural environment, but they are still and seem lifeless. Then he transferred the focus to the eye of the blackbird which is the only moving thing. Stevens uses “the” instead of “a” when he refers to blackbird because he wants to make it very clear that he refers it particular to human’s consciousness. In section twelve, he says “The river is moving. / The blackbird must be flying” (XII). This section responds to section one, because he uses the modifiers “moving” and “flying” in two sections respectively to express the same notion that our consciousness is changing over time. Cleanth Brooks describes paradox this way: “Paradox is the language...
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