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“Auto Wreck”- by Kart Shapiro Essay

In “Auto Wreck”, as the title insinuates it, is a situation that describes a car accident that takes place in a city, which means, that an ambulance, a hospital, the police, and the crowd are the main actors when death is about to strike. In the development of the poem, Shapiro describes the atmosphere that surrounds a city at night when there is a car accident; Blood all over the streets and gutters, the police covering the situation and the crowd observing the tragic accident, recalling death as enemy. In a very interesting way, Shapiro describes the hurry, horror, and in a certain way, indifference of society towards an “auto wreck”, idealizing a space were these actors interact with one another creating a hostile atmosphere regarding death.

In “Mid-term break”, the speaker is a boy that is at school in his daily routine, when it is interrupted by the news of his dead brother. The situation takes place in two atmospheres; the kid’s school were he heard the knelling bells that gives a feeling of mortality and his house were all the action takes place; the family’s grief, the funeral, the adults whispering and saying sorry, the ambulance, the four foot box, and the candles. An afternoon of sorrow and pain on a family environment, were death is perpetually present.

Yet no one fully understands death. In Shapiro’s poem “Auto Wreck,” heĀ illustrates the irrationality of life for it can be taken away at any given time for no rational reason. He uses a car accident to finely detail the reaction of society towards death and the real meaning that it represents to us. During the poem, he describes how a well established system that is made of ambulances, hospitals, police men and viewers, works at its given time to strike death. But despite all the efforts and effectiveness of the system, people themselves are incapable of understanding death and its dualities (cancer that is both a flower that blooms and a tragic disease.) Society is scared and ignorant when it comes to death.

Questions such as “Who shall die?” or “Who is innocent?” come to mind with no reasonable answer every time we witness a tragic event. For Shapiro, InĀ death, there exists firmly irrational causes for the loss of life. Death is a strange jungle, whose twisted, complicated and entangled vines represent the causes of it which can not be mapped out mathematically, but can be mapped out by the deranged explorer or the unique creator of that jungle, both of whom are irrational persons themselves.

In Mid-term Break, Heaney starts the poem by mentioning the “bells knelling” that suggests a funeral bell, rather than a bell for school lessons (this fact automatically changes our mood). Since the narrator is a boy, this poem captures his unfolding consciousness of death by recounting the particulars of his experience; being kept in the sick bay until his ride arrived, his father’s crying, the awkward behavior of the old men, the “poppy bruise” on the corpse’s temple and the end, when he expresses death’s finality: “A four foot box, a foot for every year.” Makes us think yonger ones are able to understand death better than adults, with a unique calmness he observed and described the situation from a different point of view, the mourning of the people around him never affected him, in a certain way,he was assuming death as he assumes life.

Figures of speech Definition Auto Wreck Mid-Term Break

Alliteration The repetition of the same sounds or of the same kinds of sounds at the beginning of words or in stressed syllables. ” Its quick soft silver bell beating, beating,” A four foot box, a foot for every year”

Onomatopoeia The formation or use of words that imitate the sounds associated with the objects or actions they refer to. “Then the bell, breaking the hush, tolls once”

Hyperbole A figure of speech in which exaggeration is used for emphasis or effect. “The ambulance at top speed floating down”

“And stowed into the little hospital”

“One with a bucket, douches, ponds of blood into the street and the gutter”
“I sat all morning in the college sick bay”

Simile A figure of speech in which two essentially unlike things are compared, often in a phrase introduced by like or as. “Pulsing out red light like an artery,”

“Our throats tight as tourniquets”

“Cancer simple as a flower, blooms” “He lay in the four foot box as in his cot.”

Oxymoron A rhetorical figure in which incongruous or contradictory terms are combined. “Its quick soft silver”

“Wings in s heavy curve, dips down,”

“And breaks speed, entering the crowd.”

“We speak with sickly smiles”

“The grim joke”

” The door leap open, emptying light” “In hers and coughed out angry tearless sights”

“Snowdrops and candles soothed the beside”

“Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple”

Metaphor: A figure of speech in which a word or phrase that ordinarily designates one thing is used to designate another, thus making an implicit comparison. “And down the dark one ruby flare

Pulsing out red light like an artery.”

“One hangs lanterns on the wrecks that cling

Emptying husks of locusts, to iron poles.”

” A four foot box, a foot for every year”

“Counting bells knelling classes to a close”

Rhetorical question A question to which no answer is expected, often used for rhetorical effect. Who shall die?

Who is innocent?

“Our throats were tight as tourniquets,

Our feet were bound with splints,”

In this quote, Shapiro is trying to sketch an image of people in front of a car accident with tourniquets around their necks, supported and confined by splits that restrain the body from moving. this kind of image represents a situation were the crowd were stopped, almost speechless, as they gazed upon the wreckage contemplating the reason behind death. A shocking image by the way.

“And cancer simple as a flower, blooms”

By this quote Shapiro is making a comparison of what we understand as life and what we know about death. When a flower blooms, it is clearly full of life, is a stage were life can be seen at is best. And cancer will be the opposite, a stage were death is at is best. The thing is that, visually, both phenomenons are very similar, when the cancerous cells are seen with a microscope, they look like flowers, and they bloom rapidly. The thing is that we are not used to consider cancerous cells beautiful.

“In hers and coughed out angry tearless sighs”

This image is quite effective; with the use of textures, Heaney can make you can feel the mother’s anger just by imagining the air around you.

“Snowdrops and candles soothed the bedside”

This image Heaney uses two key elements that generate a tranquil and peaceful atmosphere, the snowdrops are soft and quiet, innocent and inoffensive and the candles symbolize the ritual, to make honor and to remember a loved one. Definitely a peaceful image.

“Wearing a poppy bruise on his left temple”

The image is pure, the bruise is discrete.

A four foot box, a foot for every year”

By this quote, the boy is saying that his brother was four years old when he died, the image gives a certain relief, instead of crying for his brother, he uses his mind to analyze mathematically the situation. This image is very effective, it immediately make us feel that death is not chaos.

The child’s reaction towards death is completely different from the adult reaction towards it. The boy was describing the situation with a certain indifference of what happened, it seemed like the aura of death was unable to enter to his mind and body. He narrated as he was seated on a grandstand watching how the play developed and how the actor suffer during it According to his behavior, we could conclude that the boy wasn’t hit by death, and in a certain way, he is able to manage it in a right way, determining the rituals and behaviors of adults when death is around, and creating a barrier that separates de morning of the heart from the logic of the brain. And this can be seen at the end of the poem:

” A four foot box, a foot for every year” he uses his logic, a math problem, no a heart one.


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