Amelia Howden

ENGL 1101
Mrs. Hinnant
Oct 10 2013
Where Does the Sidewalk End?
Traditionally, Shel Silverstein’s poems are meant for children, however, they
undoubtedly hold a deeper meaning. Like most children’s literature, the author uses
literary devices to layer ideas that pertain to more adult concepts. In “Where the
Sidewalk Ends”, Silverstein uses several strategies to convey these themes. He uses
repetition, alliteration, metaphors, interjection, and containment. These poetic devices
point the reader in a certain direction in order to make them feel a certain way. The
imagery also lends to a message behind the words of the poem. While there could be
several interpretations, the most obvious story behind the words is the transition from
being a child into an adult, and how different that life is.
Silverstein uses lots of imagery in his poetry, and “Where the Sidewalk Ends” is
no exception. The imagery present in this poem is perhaps one of the most important
literary devices used. The poem begins with the description of a beautiful fantasyland.
This place exists between where the sidewalk ends and the street begins, which is a
miniscule place. This impossibility lends to a fictional place right from the beginning of
the story. It also, however, shows that the speaker really believes in the existence of such
a place because of the exact location. The land has grass that grows “soft and white” and
a sun that burns “crimson bright.” This imagery makes the world seems colorful and
inviting, appearing like a setting that is inviting and pleasant. Next, Silverstein introduces
Sean 11/21/13 1:35 AM
Comment [1]: 1u 0ctobei 2u1S
Sean 11/21/13 1:36 AM
Comment [2]: Chiluien;
Sean 11/21/13 3:38 AM
Comment [3]: Fiom chiluhoou to auult hoou
Sean 11/21/13 4:05 AM
Comment [4]: Can this woiu be useu heie. I
uon't know.
a ‘moon-bird’ who “rests from his flight”. Moon birds, obviously, are not real creatures,
and since he provides no definition it is open to our imagination what this bird is. The last
description of the fantasy world is its peppermint wind, which again leads the reader to a
pleasant experience.
The next place Silverstein describes is the “real adult world” in which the people
who no longer think like children are. This place is described as a “place where the
smoke blows black” with dark streets that “wind and bend.” There are pits from which
asphalt flowers, and the entire scene seems grim and bleak. The imagery makes the
reader think that there is no hope in the adult world. The adults “walk with a walk that is
measured and slow” while watching the way that the arrows go. The speaker also states,
“let us leave this place,” almost pleading to leave the dreary land which he or she
inhabits. The slow pace however, represents the uncertainty of the speaker who is
perhaps afraid of the challenging prospect of getting beyond the sidewalk. Those arrows
point to the wonderful world that exists where the sidewalk ends. The adults seem to feel
a sense of longing to get back to the world full of wonder and fantasy.
The last part of the poem depicts the audience following the children to the place
where the sidewalk ends, because the children know how to get there. While there is
more slow pace insinuated, the reader becomes excited to follow the children to this land
that only they can get to. Children are emphasized in this last stanza as knowing and
leading, which is not usually how children are perceived. Instead of being “too innocent,”
their innocence is perhaps what allows them to find this place, because they are unmarred
by the trials and tribulations of adult life. They therefore map out the way to the fantasy
world at the end of the sidewalk with “chalk-white arrows” in order for the adults to find
their way back to the whimsical innocence of childhood. While the imagery used by
Silverstein is definitely appealing to children, it is meant for a wider audience. Only
adults would understand the desire to go back to this world and the end of the sidewalk
meaning that the poem is meant for multiple audiences, hence the use of other types of
literary devices.
The poem uses a rather interesting rhyme scheme to keep the reader engrossed
instead of becoming monotonous. In the first stanza, the first line stands by itself,
rhyming with nothing. This highlights the line as an important phrase that needs to stand
out. The second line of the stanza loosely rhymes with the last line as to not sound boring
and repetitive but still have some relation and flow. The third through fifth lines rhyme
like a traditional poem, so that the words flow seamlessly and feel almost familiar. The
second stanza follows the same scheme, but the second and sixth lines rhyme exactly,
creating an easier movement. The last stanza incorporates sounds from both of the
previous stanzas, making the reader almost feel at home with the words. The first three
lines rhyme exactly with the third through fifth lines of the previous stanza, but also
introduce a new word. The last line of the poem rhymes with the first, which again
singles them out as containing important information.
While the poem discusses a somewhat bleak topic, reading it is easily and the
words flow well. Especially when reading it aloud, it seems bouncy and airy, full of
fancy and joy. One of the most important devices used here is alliteration. The
description of images in the text such as “grass grows” and “blows black” conjure up
both pleasant and unpleasant images that sound good rolling off of your tongue. These
sounds push the reader along to the next line, allowing you to be taken along through the
Sean 11/21/13 4:18 AM
Comment [5]: Why uo they want this. Is it
impoitant.

Sean 11/21/13 4:22 AM
Comment [6]: Awesome woiu choice
Sean 11/21/13 4:25 AM
Comment [7]: Why. Explain
poem like the children leading the adults. In the second stanza, on the other hand, seems
slower and methodical. This stanza uses repetition, which carried into the last stanza
leads the reader to believe that journey will be slow. Words repeated like “walk”,
“measured”, and “slow” contrast the bright, colorful, and fast-paced language of the first
stanza and make the real world seems even more boring. It seems to literally slow down
the rate at which one would read the poem, almost as if the reader is being dragged back
by the hopelessness of the “real world” as portrayed by Silverstein. The repetition
constantly reminds the audience that escaping the dark streets will be slow going,
challenging, and perhaps take a long time. On the other hand, devices like alliteration
hurry the reader along, assuring the audience that the goal is achievable, but it will
require a great amount of effort. Both the alliteration and repetition very much make the
reader feel like they are a part of the words that they are reading, making it relatable and
tangible.
Silverstein’s genius use of literary devices conceals an entire world behind this
simple poem that appeals to the deepest desires of many adults, to have their childhood
back. The poem is about finding ones way back to the creative world of a child, and how
the monotony of everyday life affects people in the real world. Silverstein successfully
conveys his message through the use of repetition, alliteration, imagery, metaphor, and
rhyme scheme. The combination of these devices creates a piece that is suitable for a
variety of audiences, and also means that each person will perceive these themes
differently while reading. Overall, the happiness and calm felt while reading the poem
leads the reader to believe that they can accomplish these tasks and overcome challenges,
that the power of imagination will lead them to the place where the sidewalk ends.
Sean 11/21/13 4:26 AM
Comment [8]: uenius.....
Sean 11/21/13 4:27 AM
Comment [9]: Coulu uiscuss which is moie
eviuent.