The Poem “The Street” by Octavio Paz
The poem “The Street” by Octavio Paz is one of the literary masterpieces that touch the reader with its simplicity and vivid evidence of loneliness. The author makes one immediately become a part of the sad world of the protagonist who thinks about the sense of life and lives in despair as well as years of solitude. The man is indifferent towards life and everything around him as the chances to become another person are absent. Thus, the narrator tries to find himself even though he has made his choice to spend a lonely life and, being unable to change his decision, has no hope for a better future.
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In the poem “The Street,” Paz represents a man, who does not live but only exists like a ghost and constantly searches for the meaning of life. It is evident that the narrator is lost, but the main reasons for his depression are unknown to the reader. However, in attempt to understand them, it is necessary to focus on the title of the poem. It implies that the plot is based on the narrator’s inner sufferings and regular intentions to understand himself. It is possible to assume that the street is a primary metaphor representing the life path that compels the protagonist to follow his way of loneliness. Moreover, this word has a double meaning since it symbolizes the beginning of one’s life, when it is full of noise, and the end of everything as in the poem. The line “Here is a long and silent street” shows that the narrator compares the street with an eternal but silent path. Such its features emphasize the idea of a so-called sunset of life (Paz 1). Thus, the street has devastating power of burdening the narrator’s mind and never leaving him in peace.
The narrator’s world is based on reality, which does not offer him any chance to live another life. The words “I walk in blackness and I stumble and fall/ and rise, and I walk blind” explain that the speaker is on the edge of desperation, which gradually penetrates his soul and leads to emptiness (Paz 2-3). The blackness is a symbol of the tunnel that does not allow the man to breathe. Nevertheless, he makes determined attempts to survive while struggling with a boundless sadness. The blackness is also his solitude and overall condition that control his actions and cause an irresistible desire to start everything from the very beginning. Besides, the author uses such verbs as “stumble”, “fall”, and “rise” to reveal that the narrator’s efforts to go ahead even if there is nothing except for silence in front of him. As for a blind walk, it is an obvious indicator of the speaker’s horrible state of being on the edge. The worst is that he lives without any goals, which could encourage him to explore the world in a different way. Consequently, he does not experience the taste of life but only bitterness and disappointment that turn him into a helpless person year by year.
Stones and leaves without sounds and silence reinforce the state of the protagonist. The line “my feet/ trampling on the silent stones and the dry leaves” has a metaphoric meaning as the author portrays an unreal picture (Paz 3-4). The point is that the stones cannot be silent if someone steps on them; they usually make some noise in such situation. The leaves also crackle when they are dry. Therefore, this silence shows that the speaker lives in a closed world being separated from the society for reasons, which are difficult to realize. Moreover, the despair makes the man pay attention only to those things that lie on the ground, namely stones and leaves. It is evident that he does not see the perfection of the environment since the emptiness overwhelms his heart and takes away all his inner strengths to look around and enjoy the life. On the other hand, stones and leaves can represent the useless years of his life ?– the past that deprives him of the bright future.
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The narrator says, “Something behind me also tramples, stones, leaves; if I slow down/ he slows/ if I run, he runs I turn: nobody” (Paz 5-7). It seems that he tries to run away from himself. The silent stones and leaves contribute to his paranoia that somebody follows him on purpose. However, the reader understands that it can be just the speaker’s shadow as it is always close to the man while he is walking down the street of life and death. In this case, the narrator represents himself as nobody because he does not oppress his solitude but, on the contrary, obeys his killing and meaningless daily routine. He merely follows his choice and accepts it blindly even not trying to ask his mind what for he lives on the Earth. Nothing is changeable except for dry leaves, which disappear and appear again and again. Even silence seems to be immovable as it exists in every corner of the street. Thus, such an image of the narrator emphasizes his inability to cope with desperation and emptiness that lead him down a wrong path.
Making a right choice is a necessary step to take in order for the speaker to get rid of his solitude. However, he does not realize that he must make a crucial decision to alter those thoughts, which stem from his inaction. The line “Everything dark and doorless,/ only my steps aware of me” demonstrates that the protagonist’s life is based on the stability that has been destroying him as a personality for many years of his poor existence (Paz 8-9). A dark colors are an integral part of his life. The society does not notice him. He does not feel any possibility to change the present, which is covered with darkness and sadness. He also does not see any doors and, thus, options of how to alter his perception. The man is alone, and nobody follows him except silence and his destructive thoughts. Besides, the author tries to explain that the protagonist has no potential of finding any way to start a new life. Undoubtedly, new decisions can make his life complete, but he has already lost confidence, interest to the surrounding world and, hence, for a chance to start over.
In conclusion, “The Street” by Octavio Paz is an incredible poem that touches the reader’s mind causing the feelings of sadness and sympathy for the main character living in despair. Being unable to find solutions to change his meaningless life, the narrator blindly continues living in his world of loneliness. The man wanders along the street; his long life covered with darkness and inactivity, which has a negative impact on his dignity. The reader realizes that the narrator will never change his desperate way of living, and one day he will die without having a person to farewell with.