Search for Truth in Edgar Lee Masters' Poems, Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Pantier

Pages: 6 (2182 words) Published: August 21, 2013
Tyler Craft
ENG 170: Dr. Giemza
4-22-07

Search for Truth in “Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Pantier”

Poetry is a very distinctive form of writing in that it can project a message that is full of emotion to the reader, oftentimes, in very few words. Edgar Lee Masters does an excellent job of providing various stories and themes through his poems in Spoon River Anthology. Masters successfully manages to tie together over 200 different characters in his anthology, with many of the poems directly relating to each other. Oftentimes, the poems that are related “speak” to one another and give the reader different perspectives on the same issue. By doing this, the poetic elements of the related poems act to change and contribute to the themes of each other. “Benjamin Pantier” and “Mrs. Benjamin Pantier” are two poems in the anthology that, when read individually, seem to have separate themes, but when read together speak to each other in an “argument and response” manner. Through an explication of the two poems, it can be seen that Benjamin Pantier and Mrs. Benjamin Pantier both feel betrayed, but their differing perspectives change the reader’s initial impression of sympathy for both characters to one of questioning for truth. The form of the two poems is free verse in that there is no strict rhyme or meter. This style is very beneficial in getting the themes of the two poems across in a very effective way. Free verse works well in getting these themes across because the poet is not as “trapped” in a specific form. This develops the themes of the two poems in a much more relatable manner since both poems deal with problems that most people can relate to such as friendship, betrayal, marriage, and loneliness. Adding to this discussion of Masters’ style of writing, Emilio Timoneda states that “his lines stir up a very human poetry, made up of conciseness, hardness, and classic rhythms; he is clear-sighted, sometimes satirical, always brilliant and direct” (Timoneda 46). This is a very insightful critique, especially in his assertion that Masters’ delivery is very human and direct because this allows the average reader to get into the mind of the characters and genuinely relate to their themes. In “Benjamin Pantier” the theme is that companionship is necessary to live a happy life, even if it is with a dog, especially when you have a miserable relationship with your wife and there is no one else to turn to. On the other hand, the theme of “Mrs. Benjamin Pantier” is that you cannot always trust people based on what they say and how people perceive them, and it is wrong to judge because sometimes seemingly irrational decisions have a justified explanation. Free verse “Benjamin Pantier” helps to develop the sincerity of his relationship with his dog, Nig, and shows how he has become indifferent to the world. The free verse acts almost like a letter to the reader trying to express the struggles he faced at the end of his life. This is not to imply that there are not some intentional stresses in the poems. For example, Benjamin Pantier says “our story is lost in silence. Go by, mad world!” (“B.P.” 12). There is definitely a stress on this last phrase which is important to his argument because it makes his assertion much more resonant and memorable. “Mrs. Benjamin Pantier” is also written in free verse in what appears to be an outright reply to Benjamin’s poem. She is very candidly expressing the problems she has with her husband, problems that she notes many people do not see from the surface. This helps to bring up a connected theme among the two poems which is that marriage is more complicated than it seems on the surface and requires insight into the situation of the husband and wife to understand the true nature of a relationship. While the order of these two poems, in the anthology, may not seem that important, it can be very helpful in discerning how the themes speak to each other,...

Cited: Cushman, Stephen. “Review of Edgar Lee Masters: A Biography.” The Virginia Quarterly Review. 78.1 (2002): 158-162.
Masters, Edgar Lee. “Benjamin Pantier.” Spoon River Anthology. Urbana and Chicago:
University of Illinois Press, 1992.
Masters, Edgar Lee. “Mrs. Benjamin Pantier.” Spoon River Anthology. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1992.
Timoneda, Emilio. “Meditations on Spoon River Anthology: The Epitaph as Life.” ANQ: A Quarterly Journal of Short Articles, Notes, and Reviews. 10.3 (1997): 45-47.
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