“Human Beings at Night” is a poem from of a collection of poems from Rainer Maria Rilke’s The Book of Images that was published in 1902 and then rereleased in an English translated version by Edward Snow in 1991. The poem is written in a free verse form, for there is no particular organization or rhythmic structure in the format of the lines. The majority of the poem is written in the 2nd person point of view as the speaker directly addresses “you”, then later shifts to a 3rd person point of view addressing “they” for the remainder of the poem. The speaker repeatedly mentions how the “night” masks the “light” that exposes human beings and the world. In the night the identities of human beings become anonymous as distinguishing features of each individual become warped. “Night”, “light” and anonymous human beings are the only reoccurring images in the poem. The source of the “light” is never mentioned and the human beings are never given much detail. The poem ends as the people use language to understand each other, yet the words used to establish identities are in contradiction with their meaning as “I” can refer to anybody. “Human Beings at Night” attempts to use “night” and “light” as opposites to portray the real identity of human beings, but the use of certain language and words lead to an unclear and an unsupported message. In Steven Lynn’s Text and Contexts, Deconstruction is defined as a two part theoretical approach to literature. To deconstruct something Deconstructionists must first construct it, or find the unity and meaning to work. It is after this initial step that the real theory takes place. Deconstructionists pick apart the meaning of the work and turn it against itself (103). The theory exploits the arbitrariness of the work in order to find multiple meanings in the work (135). This somewhat “smart ass” approach to literature is important because it exposes any weakness or unintended meanings in the work and...
Cited: Rilke, Rainer. “Human Beings at Night.” The Book of Images. Trans. Edward Snow. New York: North Point Press, 1994. 60, 61.
Lynn, Steven. Texts and Contexts Writing About Literature with Critical Theory (6th Edition). New York: Longman, 2011 103-136
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