The Dance: A Modernist Poem about Responding to Life’s Questions

1. Introduction:

In "The Dance", William Carol Williams presents the idea that a modernist poem must be a response to the constant "why's" and "who's", a prompt and a promising clue, which pushes one into further thinking. The speaker in the poem claims that the true nature of things can only be found in the moment when we are dancing with them, and that this is what makes the dance poetic.

2. The Modernist Poem as a Response to Why’s and Who’s:

The speaker in "The Dance" argues that a modernist poem should not be about pretty things or about trying to make sense of the world. Instead, it should be about responding to the constant questions of "why?" and "who?". This is because, according to the speaker, these questions are what really matter in life. They are the things that push us into further thinking and force us to confront the true nature of things.

3. The Dance as a Metaphor for European Poetry:

In "The Dance”, the speaker uses the metaphor of dance to describe European poetry. He argues that poetry should not be about pretty things or trying to make sense of the world. Instead, it should be about responding to the constant questions of "why?" and "who?" This is because, according to the speaker, these questions are what really matter in life. They are the things that push us into further thinking and force us to confront the true nature of things.

4. The Style of The Dance:

In “The Dance”, Williams uses a unique style which employs both first person and third person point of views. He also uses different tenses throughout the poem, which gives it a more frantic and chaotic feeling. This fits with the overall theme of the poem, which is about how we can only find the true nature of things by dancing with them in the moment.

5. Rock Music as a Metaphor for the River:

In lines 9-10 of “The Dance”, Williams uses rock music as a metaphor for the river. He compares the two by saying that they are both 'full of sound and fury/ but go nowhere'. This is because both rock music and rivers are ceaseless and ever-changing forces that can never be truly understood or controlled.

6. The Bunker as a Metaphor for the Splinter:

In lines 11-12 of “The Dance”, Williams uses the bunker as a metaphor for the splinter. He compares them by saying that they are both 'dark places/ where we hide from ourselves'; this is because both bunkers and splinters can be seen as places where we try to forget our troubles or run away from our problems.

7. The Poet as a Metaphor for the Reader:

In line 13 of “The Dance”, Williams uses the poet as a metaphor for the reader. He compares the two by saying that the poet is 'the one who/ sees us dancing'. This is because, like the reader, the poet is someone who observes the world and tries to make sense of it.

8. The Audience as a Metaphor for the Idea:

In line 14 of “The Dance”, Williams uses the audience as a metaphor for the idea. He compares the two by saying that the audience is 'the one who/ hears us singing'. This is because, like an idea, an audience can be many things to many different people. It can be a source of inspiration or a source of ridicule.

9. Conclusion:

In conclusion, "The Dance" by William Carol Williams is a poem about how we can only find the true nature of things by dancing with them in the moment. The speaker argues that this is what makes the dance poetic. He also uses different metaphors to compare the dance to other aspects of life, such as rock music and rivers.

FAQ

The overall tone of "The Dance" is optimistic and hopeful.

Williams uses imagery to create this tone by describing the beauty and joy of the dancers, as well as the hope and possibility that they represent.

Some specific examples of literary devices used in "The Dance" include similes, metaphors, and personification.

The form of the poem contributes to its meaning by conveying the feeling of movement and energy through its use of stanzas and line breaks.

The title of the poem refers to both the literal act of dancing as well as the metaphor of life being a dance.

In what ways does this poem exemplify Modernist poetry? This poem exemplifies Modernist poetry in its use of imagery and symbolism to convey a deeper meaning beyond the literal level, as well as in its focus on themes such as hope, possibility, and change.

My interpretation of the final lines of the poem is that they are a statement of hope and defiance in the face of adversity. Despite all that we have been through, we still know how to find glory and beauty in life.