William Carlos Williams: Poems

Analysis of "Nuances of a Theme by Williams"

The title of Wallace Stevens’ poem “Nuances of a Theme by Williams” implies that he intends to comment on, possibly celebrate, and almost certainly explore the potential distinctions and variations available in the poem by William Carlos Williams titled “El Hombre.” Stevens includes “El Hombre,” in its entirety minus the title, in the opening four lines of his poem with the implication (again based on the, at worst, neutral title of Stevens’ poem as well as the seemingly tributary inclusion of “El Hombre”) that his re-workings and explorations of his colleague’s piece will maintain its essence and, presumably, not bear it much, if any, antipathy. The title, however, proves to be misleading and Stevens’ subsequent lines appear to be less of a nuanced exploration of Williams’ poem than a criticism of what he sees as its faults: namely the sentimentality, anthropomorphizing, and romantic detachedness of the narrator that is present especially in the first two lines.

It is particularly the first stanza of Williams’ poem that Stevens takes issue with and he does so, at least in part, by way of its second stanza. Stevens attaches himself to two phrases, “shine alone” (3) and “lend no part” (4), that bookend the second stanza of...

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