Robert Pack: On "Disillusionment of Ten O' clock"

Stevens' titles often provide us with his attitude toward the action that takes place within a poem, and therefore they have a special function in the structure of the poem. If the title is humorous, ironic or ambiguous, it is necessary to regard the poem from this perspective. "Disillusionment of Ten O'Clock" contrasts people who "are not going/ To dream of baboons and periwinkles" with the old, drunk and dreaming sailor who "Catches tigers/ In red weather." The inability of these people to live in the colored world of the imagination, to be ghosts dressed in "purple with green rings," is their disillusionment. Stevens' irony is severe in its judgment; clearly he would not have the sailor abandon the illusion that enables him to catch tigers. And we may conjecture further: why are ghosts in "white night-gowns" any more real than ghosts attired in color? The color red suggests the intensity of the sailor's commitment to imagination, and if we believe with Stevens that the imagination is "The magnificent cause of being, the one reality/ In this imagined world," then surely the dreaming sailor's illusion saves us from the disillusionment which reduces modern life to a drab reality.

The "disillusionment" in this poem would deprive us of the fictions that enrich our lives.

From Wallace Stevens: An approach to his poetry and thought. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1958. Copyright © 1958 by Rutgers, The State University.

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Criticism Overview
Title Robert Pack: On "Disillusionment of Ten O' clock" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author Robert Pack Criticism Target Wallace Stevens
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 04 Dec 2015
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication No Data
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