Wallace Stevens's The Emperor of Ice-Cream Essay

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Wallace Stevens's "The Emperor of Ice-Cream" "The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream," Wallace Steven's writes in his poem "The Emperor of Ice-Cream" (8). This line proclaiming the ice-cream maker as important as an emperor is used metaphorically to describe the selfishness of human nature. One the surface, the poem is about the wake of a poor, old woman. However, if the metaphors and symbols of the poem are examined, the poem's deeper message becomes apparent. The attenders of the wake, who represent human nature, are uninterested in the dead woman; they are only concerned with their own wants - eating ice-cream. Therefore, the "emperor of ice-cream" is truly the mourners' emperor, for the ice-cream maker represents the power of…show more content…
This late mention serves as a commentary to the unimportance of the dead woman to the mourners and, thus, the importance they place in themselves. The poem opens with a list of attenders, starting with the man churning the ice-cream. Stevens writes, "Call the roller of big cigars,/ The muscular one, and bid him whip" (1-2). The reason for the wake, the dead woman, is not as important to the attenders as ice-cream, as revealed by the order in which the ice-cream man, the attenders, and the dead woman appear in the poem. In addition, the line "The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream" further backs the ice-cream man's importance by making him an emperor. The dead woman is only described as cold and dumb (14). The woman is rather unpleasant now; because she is unpleasant, she represents one's duties, which are oftentimes quite unpleasant. The ice-cream tastes wonderful; therefore, it represents one's selfish desires, which tend to be placed above duty. Therefore, the attenders, who represent human nature, are only concerned with their own pleasures and selfish wants, even when they should be focused on another person or duty.

In her death, the woman is revealed in a way in which she would not approve. She no longer has any control over the way her friends and neighbors view her. Stephens writes, "If her horny feet

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