The Book of Questions, III

The Book of Questions, III Literary Elements

Speaker or Narrator, and Point of View

The speaker is an inquisitive person with an animist view of the world.

Form and Meter

This poem was written by Neruda in Spanish and then translated to English by William O'Daly. So the rhythms of the poem would be different in the original vs. in translation. Both were written in free verse, which matches the conversational tone. Each stanza is a question, broken in two with enjambment at a dramatic moment.

Metaphors and Similes

"Why do trees conceal/the splendor of their roots?"

This can be seen as a political metaphor about the economic base upon which the superstructure is built. These are Marxist terms, relevant to analyzing Neruda’s poetry because he was an active member of the Communist Party. So, this short poem can be seen as a nod to the masses who do the work to keep society alive, but whose labor is concealed by ideology.

Alternatively, this could be read a spiritual metaphor, or a reworking or reversal of the famous Dylan Thomas poem that begins “The force that through the green fuse drives the flower/Drives my green age; that blasts the roots of trees/Is my destroyer.”

Roots can also refer to ancestry, so it could also be read as a metaphor for an improper shame towards one’s family history.

Alliteration and Assonance



Ironic reversal of expectation: Many poems have been written to praise the beauty of fruit and flowers, but roots are often overlooked as merely functional.





Philosophical, Playful

Protagonist and Antagonist

The rose, trees, the thieving automobile, and a train

Major Conflict





Metonymy and Synecdoche

Synecdoche: “the splendor of their roots.” The part (roots) could stand for the whole tree.


Each question contains an example of personification:
“is the rose naked”
“the thieving automobile”
“trees conceal”
“a train standing”


This question seems hyperbolic to the point of absurdity at first: “Is there anything in the world sadder/ than a train standing in the rain?” See analysis for further consideration.