Portrait of a Couple at Century's End Themes

Sherod Santos
This Study Guide consists of approximately 22 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Portrait of a Couple at Century's End.
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Empathy

In the fifth stanza, in line 24, “Portrait of a Couple at Century's End” changes direction. Lines 1 through 23 focus on one continuous scene: a suburban home with cars going by in the rain and the news on the television while a couple eat their dinner and placidly discuss their day. In line 24, however, the speaker intrudes on the story. “They remind us / of something” draws attention to the fact that the poet is describing a scene and that the reader is observing it. In lines 24 through 32, the poem uses the words “us,” “we've,” “our,” and “ours” to make readers see how the poem is talking not only about the lives of theoretical people but also about readers' lives.

The poem counts on the fact that readers will empathize with the couple described. Unlike sympathy, which entails understanding another's suffering, empathy requires one to put oneself in the other person's...

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This section contains 875 words
(approx. 3 pages at 400 words per page)
Buy the Portrait of a Couple at Century's End Study Guide
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