Sharpio's "Auto Wreck": The Theme of Death
Few subjects can be discussed with more insightfulness and curiosity
than death. The unpredictability and grimness of it are conveyed well in Karl
Shapiro's poem, "Auto Wreck". The poem starts with a description of an
ambulance rushing to the scene of a crash, and hurriedly gathering up the
victims and rushing them away. The aftermath of the police investigation that
follows leaves the crowd gathered around the scene to explore privately and
individually a range of feelings and emotions about the reality of death.
Shapiro's usage of imagery together with figurative language is a key element in
getting the theme of death across to the reader. By bringing the scene of the
accident to life and relaying the emotions of the spectators with language and
several metaphors, the poem gains a realistic and sometimes transcendent effect.
In some places in the poem, the words can easily be taken literally to convey
scenery or an emotion, but they can also be taken so as to make the reader think
about possible higher meanings. The thoughtsexpressed in the poem help to
suggest these other meanings by clearly stating what is being felt by the
speaker and the crowd around the accident. By stating clearly and vividly the
emotions of the scene, it is easy for the reader to identify the theme itself,
and also to identify with it.
In the first stanza, the speaker describes the ambulance arriving on the
scene more so than the actual scene itself. The ambulance is described using
words such as "wings", "dips", and "floating", giving the impression of the
hectic nature of its business at an accident. When the ambulance arrives and
breaks through the crowd, "the doors leap open" to further convey the hurried
state it's in. In line 5, as the ambulance passes the beacons and illuminated
clocks, it gives the reader an obvious clue about setting. To take the words'
meaning further, it can be argued that the illumination of the clocks and the
emptying light in line 8 symbolize life itself as light in an otherwise dark
situation. Also, the allusion to a heart by use of the words "pulsing",
"artery" and "beating" personify the ambulance as the new life giving support of
the victims of the crash. The doors in line 14 being an "afterthought" and
being closed makes the impression that death did actually occur at the scene,
which is grimly described in the second stanza. The words themselves continue to
give clues about the theme in line 11 which reads, "Then the bell, breaking the
hush, tolls once." I saw this line as an allusion to an old expression taken
from poetry for the unpredictablilty of death, "for whom the bell tolls". The
expression emphasizes the fact that no one knows who will be next in line for
fate to meet them in a grim way, and this...