Anecdote of the Jar:

Posted: October 14, 2014 in Poetry, Research
I placed a jar in Tennessee,   
And round it was, upon a hill.   
It made the slovenly wilderness   
Surround that hill.

The wilderness rose up to it,

And sprawled around, no longer wild.   
The jar was round upon the ground   
And tall and of a port in air.

It took dominion everywhere.   

The jar was gray and bare.
It did not give of bird or bush,   
Like nothing else in Tennessee.
                                                                                                                                                                                        Anecdote of the Jar is an imagist poem in which Stevens explores the question of the superiority between art and nature: Is nature superior to human creations, or does human creativity surpasses nature in some way? This is an age-old and puzzling question. This poem solves the riddle by recognizing the unique differences between art and nature: art may sometimes be more beautiful than nature but it cannot be as creative as the nature.
The first striking thing about this poem is its title; Anecdote of the Jar. Anecdote suggests a little story that might be funny and most likely to have a moral lesson to it. However, after going through the poem you realize that it is only talking about a jar. This poem starts in the wilderness of Tennessee, where a simple jar is placed. Going by the description of the jar, we get the illusion that this one must be bigger than the average jar. The attention-capturing part is that the Tennessee wilderness seems to be no longer wild since it is ruled by this jar. Since the jar sits on a place of “high ground”, we can conclude that it lies central in the landscape, where it cannot be obscured by a tree, bush, or any living thing in the wild. Thus, the jar sits on a throne. However, it still feels out of place even though it rules Tennessee. It turns out that there are things that only the wilderness, and not the jar, can do; such as growing and breeding.

It is also important to appreciate the first word of the poem, “I”, where the writer says that, “I placed a jar in Tennessee”. After all, the jar did not just place itself in the middle of a hill in Tennessee. It appears that the speaker (the writer of the poem) put it there as a sort of a social experiment. He probably wanted to find out how the jar would affect the wilderness around it. The poem is a sort of an investigation on the line between the man-made and the natural world, and whether it is even necessary to draw such a line in the first place. This query is answered in the final stanza, where we learn that even though the jar may rule over the wilderness, it can never be part of it since it lacks the power to procreate in order to keep it alive for generations.

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