Shapiro a fatal accident. Shock can alter a person’s

Shapiro uses figurative language to reinforce the idea of death as bizarre and perplexing. In one year, over one million people die in a car accident. Chances are, the average person either knows someone who died or who was greatly affected by a car accident. They are a common tragedy among people today, which is why the poem Auto Wreck by Karl Shapiro is one that will pull at anyone’s heart strings. In his three stanza free verse, Shapiro explores the incomprehensible phenomenon of unexpected death. Beginning as a narrative set on a highway immediately following a horrific car accident, the audience is drawn in with imagery that provokes all senses The speaker of this poem is disengaged from the scene of the accident, almost as though from the perspective of a filmmaker who has stumbled upon this gruesome scene. This detachment, along with the short and choppy lines and lack of punctuation, are used to create an atmosphere of urgency and chaos. The entire poem is full of enjambment, which makes it more difficult for the reader to understand. More likely than being a documentarian, the detachment from the situation is perhaps the speaker suffering from the shock of witnessing a fatal accident. Shock can alter a person’s consciousness and cause them to feel removed from the situation or even from their body. The alliteration in the first line ‘soft silver bell, beating’, when read aloud is akin to the beat of a heart, with the placement of the ‘s’ and ‘b’ sounds. The mood of Auto Wreck is somber, reflective, and existential. Shapiro uses an incorporation of subtle and direct devices to initiate feelings of unease and distress. This work drives the reader to reflect on their own experiences with death or accidents. Words that provide these feelings are those that fit the language clusters of darkness, blood, death, pain, and suffering. ‘Heavy’, ‘mangled’, ‘terrible’, ‘deranged’, ‘blood’, and ‘gutter’ are just a few examples of words that fit with the theme of the poem. The symbolism in Auto Wreck largely coincides with the theme of death. The line ‘spatters all we knew of denouement/ Across the expedient and wicked stones’ is representing human knowledge as blood and gore. One of the most powerful metaphors in the poem is ‘The ambulance at top speed floating down’. The ambulance appears in the reader’s mind to float as if it’s on wings, symbolizing an angel. Shapiro’s comparison of the burned out shells of the cars to that of insects, it is a striking comparison that tells the reader that this accident was gruesome and horrendous. The onomatopoeia in the second to last line ‘and spatters all we knew of denouement’ is a powerful visual to conclude an unsettling poem. The poet explains that other causes of death, like stillbirth, suicide, war, and cancer can be explained more easily than an accident of the nature of a highway crash. That while tragic and sad, these types of deaths are not related to an inexplicable accident, but have a reason and logic to them. They are more easily understood. This poem asks important and difficult questions about the randomness of death and opens up the reader to thinking about how it would feel were it them or someone they loved. The reader is opened up to the grim reality of death and its orderlessness. This poem realizes ‘human fragility’ and how, as part of our nature, we struggle to overcome and understand death that is so simply inexplicable. How, in world that is cut and paste, cause and effect, it is impossible to grasp that in an instant, without a reason, something so terrible can happen. Shapiro is exploring the illogical nature of mortality by contrasting an accident with other forms of death.


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