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Introduction & Overview of In the Suburbs

This Study Guide consists of approximately 17 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of In the Suburbs.
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In the Suburbs Summary & Study Guide Description

In the Suburbs Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Further Reading on In the Suburbs by Louis Simpson.

"In the Suburbs" can be considered a representative poem of Louis Simpson's, both in subject matter and style. Following in the footsteps of his literary idol, Anton Chekhov, Simpson has fashioned a career of chronicling the mundane lives of ordinary people. However, his descriptions of middle- class life are not without thorns. Undergirding his poems about suburbia and small talk lurks a pervasive sense of gloom and despair. The very collection in which the poem appears, At the End of the Open Road, published in 1963 by Wesleyan University Press, is itself an extended and complicated evaluation of American society in the middle of the twentieth century. The title is a response to Walt Whitman's vision of America as a place of endless possibility, described in his poem "Song of the Open Road." Simpson considers the country a hundred years after Whitman wrote, when its geographical, and by implication spiritual, frontiers have been exhausted. Simpson asks, what's next?

"In the Suburbs" is the second poem in the collection, following "In California," a dark piece about what happens when a dream has gone bad. "In the Suburbs" is only six lines long and comprised of just three sentences, each a separate statement about the emptiness of suburban life. Using the second person "you," Simpson pronounces both the meaninglessness of this existence and the futility of attempting to escape. In its evocation of a life that needs to be changed, it echoes both Rilke's poem "Archaic Torso of Apollo" and James Wright's poem "Lying in a Hammock on William Duffy's Farm in Pine Island, Minnesota." Statement poems like these are frequently anthologized because they are short and considered "easy" to understand. "In the Suburbs" is no exception, having appeared in a number of introductory poetry texts, including The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry and Michael Meyer's Poetry: An Introduction.

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Poetry for Students
In the Suburbs from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.