Title: Review of "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota' Author(s): R.J.

Spendal Publication Details: Explicator. Source: Literature Resource Center. Detroit: Gale. Document Type: Critical essay, Excerpt Full Text: COPYRIGHT 2010 Gale, Cengage Learning [In the following excerpt Spendal takes a close look at some of Wright's major images in "Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota."] [The central conflict of “Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island Minnesota” is] the opposition between an impulse to change and failure or inability to do so. The speaker is aware from the beginning that he has “wasted” his life. Each of the poem's major images depicts his frustrated impulse toward change. The last lines suggest that as the evening of his life approaches the speaker resigns himself to a permanent state of irresolution. To “lean back” is to give up; this hardly seems the posture of aroused insight. The butterfly, a traditional symbol of metamorphosis, indicates at the outset the speaker's concern with change. However the conventional meaning of the image is undercut by several details: “bronze” suggests rigidity; sleep denies to the butterfly any possibility of consciously determined movement; and “Blowing like a leaf” implies a lack of volitional strength—a leaf is easily swayed. The house in line 4 conveys a sense of achievement and security easily associated with a life well-led; but the house is empty and it belongs to William Duffy rather than the speaker.... Lastly, the chicken hawk “looking for home” symbolizes the speaker's own quest for fulfillment; but the bird only “floats,” he does not vigorously and resolutely pursue his search. By now the speaker too has yielded to a life of floating as he lies back in his hammock. It is too late in the day for difficult decisions, too dark for movement. The point of the many temporal and spatial references in the poem is that they suggest a movement and direction which, ironically, continue to be absent from the speaker's life. And the poem is haunted by absences: the butterfly is unconscious; the house is empty; the cows and horses are not physically present; the hawk, like the speaker, is absent from his home. The speaker's divided state of mind is further reflected in the binary character of much of the poem's imagery: “two pines” ... and, at least by implication, the two points between which the speaker's hammock is strung. The theme of irresolution is also conveyed through structure. The winged creatures at beginning and end have conventional associations with aspiration and the will to change, while the quadrupeds of the middle section symbolize the weight of reality, life conducted at the level of exigency (eating and excreting). The poem, like the speaker, is thus equally divided between the conflicting claims of character renewal and brute subsistence. With a little imagination one can even see the butterfly and hawk lifting the poem at each end while the cows and horses bow it in the middle—the shape of a man lying in a hammock. This structural image supports what the poem's other details have already revealed: the speaker is a victim of blunted purpose, hopelessly suspended between alternate courses of action. Source Citation

Spendal, R.J. "Review of 'Lying in a Hammock at William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota'." Explicator (May 1976). Rpt. in Literature Resource Center. Detroit: Gale, 2010. Literature Resource Center. Web. 6 May 2010. Document URL http://go.galegroup.com/ps/i.do?&id=GALE%7CH1420008831&v=2.1&u=phoe84216&it=r&p= LitRC&sw=w

Gale Document Number: GALE|H1420008831

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