Next Day By Randall Jarrell Essay Research

Next Day By Randall Jarrell Essay, Research Paper Next Day by Randall Jarrell I think, generally, people wish they were somewhere or someone else, no matter where they

Next Day By Randall Jarrell Essay, Research Paper

Next Day by Randall Jarrell

I think, generally, people wish they were

somewhere or someone else, no matter where they

are or how objectively good their situations are.

They?re not really complaining; consciously they

know things are going relatively well for them,

but there is always that nostalgia for more

romantic times past, or that nagging what if in

the back of the mind.

These feelings, which more or less everyone has

more or less all of the time, are what Randall

Jarrell?s poem Next Day is all about. The speaker,

a woman, is lamenting the realization that she is

getting old. Her major life decisions have been

made, and the grocery boy is not checking her out.

She thinks back, briefly, to when she was young

and delectable, but is not long in remembering her

family; her daughter, her sons, her husband; the

people she most loves.

The poem?s opening images wisk you directly into a

supermarket, where the speaker is shopping among

other housewives ?slacked or shorted.? Aside from

just setting the scene, each of these images has

some thematic significance. Cheer, Joy, and All

are not only brands of laundry detergent, but are

states of mind through which she cycles. At first

she is cheery: perhaps it is a beautiful day, a

morning in May (line 43 says it is morning). She

is also experiencing moments of joy: thinking of

her children or the delicious meal ahead of her.

But soon she settles on the all: wondering about

the world and her place in it.

The Cornish game hens are a symbol of class in the

poem; Jarrell is trying to show that this woman is

financially well-off. He doubles this notion in

line 14 when the woman says she was poor when she

was young, implying that she is not poor now, and

then triples it with the mention of a maid in line

38 (It is interesting to note that the made and

the dog are put together on their own line, a sign

of the times, perhaps?).

William James, mentioned in line six, was one of

the cofounders of a school of philosophy called

pragmatism, which maintains that ?both the meaning

and the truth of any idea is a function of its

practical outcome.?1 James also said that true

ideas ?lead through experience in ways that

provide consistency, orderliness, and

predictability.?1 Jarrell is saying that the

speaker and the the other ladies in the store have

become defined by what they do: cooking and

cleaning and shopping. There lives have become

consistent, orderly, and predictable, and

therefore true. The speaker ignores the

?identical/ Food-gathering flocks? because they

are precisely what she does not what to be; she

chooses not to acknowledge them. Still feeling

Cheer, albeit a bit forced, she tries not to lets

these visions bother her.

In the second stanza, though, she cannot help but

buy the All, and begins to notice what she has

been trying not to notice: that she is getting

old, just like the other women. Even shutting her

eyes doesn?t help as the grocery boy, with his

whole life ahead of him, loads her car. The boy

triggers a rush of nostalgia in stanzas three and

four, as the woman thinks back to when she was

?young and miserable and pretty,? when she wanted

what she has now. But now her ?wish/ Is womanish:?

she wants what she had then. She realizes that she

was miserable, yet she wants it anyway. It was

exciting; she was an individual, not part of a

Food-gathering flock, and people noticed her. ?I

was good enough to eat: the world looked at me/

And its mouth watered.? Now, in line 27, the boy

takes notice of the dog over her.

Lines 24-25, ?And, holding their flesh within my

flesh, their vile/Imaginings within my imagining,?

most likely refer to sexual experiences she had in

youth with which she was less than overjoyed. But

it could also be said that now, looking back, part

of her is sorry that that era of her life is gone,

and now such ?vile/ Imaginings? exist only within

her imagining. At some point she gave that life up

and took ?the chance of life,? perhaps marriage.

She thinks back again, on the drive home in lines

29-34, to that last illicit sexual moment, and how

glorious it seems in her memory. She recalls how

it left, at its finale, ?upon the palm/Some soap

and water? (Joy?), and then she is snapped back

into reality, perhaps by a green light, and thinks

of her family. She realizes in the next few lines

that it is not her life that she wishes would

revert to that of her ?Gay/ Twenties,? but she

herself, and her body. She is very happy with her

life, and does not want it to change. ?As I look

at my life,/ I am afraid/ Only that it will

change, as I am changing.? She is upset about

getting old, not about a stagnant life. Her ?sure

and unvarying days? give her life meaning, truth.

In the ninth stanza the speaker talks about the

funeral of a friend she attended the day before.

She found that her dead friend reminded her of

herself. ?My friend?s cold made-up face, .?.?.

dressed body/ Were my face and body,? writes

Jarrell, using a three-line metaphor. Within this

is another metaphor, where Jarrell describes the

friend?s face as ?granite among its flowers.?

The speaker sees herself as becoming this woman;

she doesn?t have long to go. But then she imagines

her friend telling her how young she is, and this

is the voice of reason. The woman realizes she is

not so old, really, and that she is an individual,

special and exceptional. She counts her blessings,

momentarily out of the All and into the Cheer,

seeing the brighter (colors or whites?) side of

things as an allied third party, alive or dead,

would see them.

This epiphany does not last long, alas, and the

speaker again feels lost, again feels anonymous

and unimportant and old. She realizes, however,

that it is not her problem exclusively; ?no one is

exceptional,? she says, ?no one has anything.?

This is why the poem is appealing despite its

sentimentality. It truly speaks to everyone. The

feelings which the speaker is experiencing are

what drive people to buy fast cars, get facelifts,

and abandon their families. Genetics aside, these

emotions are the root of m