When you hear the phrase "the American people" do you think of a people who are despoiled, alienated, or lost? William Carlos Williams characterizes the American people in this way in his poem To Elsie, which provides commentary on the American people's lost perspective. Through tone and imagery Williams tells of a self-alienating America that has lost perspective of its most treasured ideology, the American Dream, due to its violent and unstable tradition. Williams' tone is a key component to understanding the message that he wishes to convey to the reader. In the first stanzas of the poem Williams' diction is often general and seemingly flaccid as he tries to articulate his understanding of "the pure products of America go[ing] crazy" (Williams 1-2). Using phrases such as "mountain folk from Kentucky" and "ribbed end of Jersey," Williams puts forth the proposition that this craziness encompasses all Americans from every walk of life (3-5). This flaccid language describes the American people as "deaf-mutes, thieves" and "devil-may-care men" who have turned "to railroading" in their "Monday to Saturday" jobs to aspire to the American Dream (7, 10, 11, 15). After the eighth stanza, the poem's loses its tone of flaccidness and gains a voice of anger and frustration as Williams tells a story of Elsie. She is a "pure product of America" born to a couple "succumbing without emotion" to the institution. The institution leaves each and every American with this "numbed terror" of which Americans know little about (24). This anger and disgust that permeate Williams' current tone are apparent in the language that he uses. Elsie is born or "thrown up" into this America which Williams describes as being "hemmed around" "disease" and "murder" (31-33). This yet again speaks to this violent tradition that is America and the poor attempt of the state to protect its citizens from disease. Williams makes it clear in his language that this Elsie is not rare or an...
Cited: Williams, William Carlos. Spring and All. To Elsie. 1923.
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