Randall Jarrell

Comments & Themes

Study Questions. You can reflect and write a paper on the following topics:

    • Discuss Randall Jarrell's analysis on Lowell's poetry as expressed in "From the Kingdom of Necessity" (Poetry and the Age, 1953).


    • Discuss the concepts of "dream", "mother", and "death", as developed in Jarrell's famous poem "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner".


    • Analyze Jarrell's re-creations of the female outlook in "Next Day" and "The Woman at the Washington Zoo." Compare his depiction of malaise, estrangement, alienation, and displacement with that of poets Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton or Sharon Olds.


    • Compare Jarrell's "Mail Call" to that of Karl Shapiro's "The Leg". What are both their attitudes towards death?


    • Analyze Jarrell's inventive psychological portrait in "Next Day" (Sad Heart at the Supermarket: Essays and Fables, 1962). Comment on the distance between irony and lament.


    • How are confusion and terror at the ordinariness of a life developed in "The Woman at the Washington Zoo." What kind of acknowledgement is the speaker being pressed towards?


    • Compare Jarrell's "anti-war poems" with W.H. Auden's. How do compare, for instance, poems such as Jarrell's "Losses" with Auden's "September 1, 19392.


    • Analyze the concept of "alienation" comparing Jarrell's "The Woman at the Washington Zoo" and Auden's "The Stranger".


    • Randall Jarrell expressed that "besides the Frost that everybody knows there is one whom no one even talks about" (Poetry and the Age, 1953). Discuss upon the interpretation that Jarrell offers of Robert Frost in "The Other Frost".


    • Why, when and how does Jarrell's voice become confessional. Can this expression be applied to Jarrell's poetry? How does it differ from his contemporaries, namely Delmore Schwartz, John Berryman, and Robert Lowell?