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Sarah Bogart

March 24, 2014



Feelings and personal experiences change interpretations. A quick pace and choppy
sentence structure can add an optimistic feel to a poem about death- a subject not meant to be
taken lightly. A simple object can symbolize an infinite amount of events and people. Two
unlike ideas often work harmoniously to alter readers' thoughts, even if their original
assumptions were correct. Although peoples interpretations often differ greatly, some ideas are
so far fetched that they couldnt possibly be true. Poets often take advantage of these unfeasible
assumptions to create false images in the readers head, leading up to a twist that completely
changes the meaning. Nazim Hikmet uses descriptive language and ubiquitous literary symbols
so that the reader formulates a personalized theme himself, which can be elucidated through
studying his milieu.
Upon first hearing of the poem about a cucumber, the message seemed that it would be
bland and meaningless. After simply reading the piece, puzzlement remained prominent.
Without knowing of Hikmets past, only a few words and ideas made sense. Coming up with
meanings based on pictures that danced around while reading the simple poem became
unsuccessful. The light tone painted a picture of a shimmering green cucumber softly set in the
middle of a table, sitting need to a window realizing a bush halfway submerged in snow. Since
plural pronouns appeared throughout the poem, a mentally rearranged picture showed multiple
immobile people slumped around the table, staring at the solemn vegetable innocently sleeping
in the middle. Still, nothing jumped out. Continuously rereading the poem contributed little to
understanding the meanings, other than recognizing repeated phrases, flashbacks, and simple but
iffy tropes. The poem was a conceit, because the cucumber definitely represented something.
However, all of the ideas of what it could symbolize were ballpark guesses that easily could have
been false. After conducting research on the authors life, it became apparent that Hikmet
attended jail while in exile for accounts of publishing anti-government poems (The Cucumber).
The constant use of we in the poem, however, clearly showed that "After all, in the poem
several characters are sitting around a kitchen table and staring at a cucumber, expectant of signs
of hope and renewal. If this were not enough to suggest that a literal reading of the text is not
very meaningful, the description of the tableau as a dream and the mention of a green sun (a
common symbol for fantasy in literary criticism) call upon the reader to look for some deeper
meaning (Brown). Browns interpretation matched mine almost directly. The fact that simply
reading the poem would not provide a meaning is true. As said before, it took multiple readings
to even get a clue about what was going on, not just in the poem, but in my mind. The cucumber
could have represented multiple different subjects according to a readers personal experiences.
With that being said, the poem was full of contrasting elements, which added depth and
complexity to the theme. Therefore, its safe to assume that the cucumber opposed the symbol of
snow, the other repeatedly mentioned topic. The cucumber could show spring, which all of the
characters want, on account of the snow that has been falling continuously. A deeper meaning
could be peace. A fresh, innocent cucumber contrasts frigid, threatening snow. Hikmet lived
through part of the Cold War, which was animated with intense threat from other countries
(Nazim Hikmet). I can only imagine the overwhelming desire for peace throughout the world at
that time.
One of his poems, Letter to My Wife, portrays a letter that a prisoner at risk of
execution wrote to his wife. Although fairly hard to interpret on account of the quick and light
tone which contrasted the death theme, it likely was connected to Hikmets experiences in jail.
Initially, the poem creates a bright tone, while the theme is depressing. The line structure is short
and choppy, which demands that the readers eyes jump around the page (Letter to My Wife).
Personally, when I hear or read the word hop or jump, a picture of a bunny- a carefree creature-
appears. This sly style tricked my mind into interpreting the poem as if the husband was writing
a letter stating Im coming home! instead of I might be executed soon! If read in the same
tone, the readers thoughts can be altered to create images that shouldnt connect to the theme of
death. This technique serves a purpose. The narrator (assumed to be Hikmet himself) is
attempting to reassure his wife that although he faces potential execution, she will be able to live
without him. His comfortable words and smooth tone hint that "She will quickly forget him, as
grief in the twentieth century does not last for more than a year. . . He may be referring to the
huge loss of life in World War I, in which about sixteen million people died. . . Perhaps he is
saying that untimely or violent death is so common that people are almost getting used to it
shaking it off like a dog after a bath (Letter to My Wife). The unnerving aspect of this conjured
into a swift poem shows how faulty the human mind is at the hand of a writer.
To compare my thoughts to the interpretations of professional critics was like walking
blind-folded through a maze with the guidance of someone with perfect vision. Often initial
assumptions are correct, or at least clues to the real meaning, while other primary reactions are
used to the authors advantage to trick someone into believing what they know is untrue.
Although the critics provide guidance in creating alternative meanings for the poems, each reader
has the authority to develop his own opinion, which should be susceptible to nobodys thoughts.
Works Cited
The Cucumber. Poetry for Students. Ed. Sara Constantakis. Vol. 41. Detroit: Gale, 2012. 79-
97. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.
Brown, Rita M. The Cucumber. Poetry for Students. Ed. Sara Constantakis. Vol. 41. Detroit:
Gale, 2012. 79-97. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 26 Feb. 2014.
Nazim Hikmet. Poets.org. Academy of American Poets, 1997-2014. Web. 24 Feb. 2014.
Letter to My Wife. Poetry for Students. Ed. Sara Constanakis. Vol. 38. Detroit: Gale, 2011.
113-137. Gale Virtual Reference Library. Web. 28 Feb. 2014.