Anthony Whiting: On "Study of Two Pears"

Stevens undermines a single, reductive point of view again in a later poem, "Study of Two Pears." . . .

. . . the speaker of the poem is the reductionist. The speaker insists that pears are unique natural forms that have no resemblance to anything else. "The pears are not viols, / Nudes or bottles. / They resemble nothing else" ( CP 196). And the poem ends with the words, "The pears are not seen / As the observer wills" (CP 197), which can be read as a final assertion that the pears resist the observer's will to transform them into something else through resemblance. Stevens writes in "Three Academic Pieces" that ''as to the resemblance between things in nature, it should be observed that resemblance constitutes a relation between them since, in some sense, all things resemble each other" (NA 71). He goes on to discuss resemblances between things in nature and things of the imagination, and he comments that "Poetry is a satisfying of the desire for resemblance" (NA 77). In denying that the pears resemble anything else, then, the speaker of "Study of Two Pears" takes a decidedly antipoetic stance. But it is a stance that the speaker unknowingly subverts. In the process of defining what the pears are not, the speaker creates resemblances between them and other things in nature (viols, nudes, bottles), and between them and artistic representations of them. . . . In trying to define the pears by excluding everything else, the speaker shows us that it is impossible not to relate the pears to things in nature and to things created by the imagination. Ironically, the speaker's attempt to eliminate resemblances results in a "satisfying of the desire for resemblance."

. . . In "Study of Two Pears," the speaker's attempt to describe the pears by denying their resemblance to other things results in showing us how many things they do resemble. The centripetal force of reduction and exclusion becomes the centrifugal force of differentiation and dispersion as, through resemblance, the contexts in which Stevens presents the pear expands.

From The Never-Resting Mind: Wallace Stevens' Romantic Irony. Copyright © 1996 by the University of Michigan.

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Criticism Overview
Title Anthony Whiting: On "Study of Two Pears" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Anthony Whiting Criticism Target Wallace Stevens
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 05 Dec 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication No Data
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