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Compare/contrast Persimmons and Study of Two Pears

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Essay title: Compare/contrast Persimmons and Study of Two Pears

Compare, contrast and contextualize Wallace Stevens, “Study of Two Pears” and Li Young-Lee, “Persimmons”.

Compare, contrast and contextualize Wallace Stevens, “Study of Two Pears” and Li Young-Lee, “Persimmons”.

(1) Wallace Stevens was born in Reading, Pennsylvania on October 2, 1879, and became one the most accomplished poets of his era. His modernist ideology coincides with colleagues such as T.S. Elliot and Ezra Pound. In his life Stevens wrote many poems, collected in over ten major publications, and won the Pulitzer price in 1955 for his works. In his poem ‘Study of Two Pears’ Stevens describes two pears not only how they are, but at the same time as they are seen. Li-Young Lee was born in 1957 in Djakarta, Indonesia, son of parents with opposing backgrounds. After fleeing Indonesia through Hong Kong to the United States, Lee attended several Universities. His work is influenced by his childhood, his family history and individualism. His poem ‘Persimmons’ is about himself growing up in the United States, trying to adapt to this new country and it culture. But also the relationship with his father plays a role.

(2) Both poems are about fruit. However, the fruit is metaphorical for different views people can have on the same object or subject. In both poems, the pieces of fruit are described with great detail. The shape, color and taste are all mentioned. In terms of format there are too similarities that can be found. Stevens and Lee both use stanzas that do not rhyme. Furthermore, both poems contain simple sentences, not long phrases. Both poems seem - one more than the other - to talk about a painting. “Citrons, oranges and greens”, and “are blobs on the green cloth”, in ‘Study of Two Pears’, suggesting a still life. In ‘Persimmons’ “three paintings by my father”, talking about his fathers paintings.

(3) Various differences between the two poems can also be described. Stevens wrote his poem in 1942. At that time the world is at war against Nazism, and many believe that the free world did far too little to stop Hitler’s sick philosophies from spreading. Although Stevens had little interest in politics, it could explain his attempt to teach his readers not to rely on one’s own filling in of certain facts, such as upcoming Nazism, or just pears. ‘Persimmons’ was written in 1986, when the Cold War was still present. This division between capitalism and communism or east and west was still the same enlarging and magnifying force that made Lee’s journey to overcome the cultural gap between China and the United States so tough. Lee’s poem has a storytelling nature, whereas Stevens’ ‘Study of Two Pears’ is written in a far more abstract style. ‘Persimmons’ begins with Lee’s memory of him being disciplined by his sixth-grade teacher, Mrs. Walker, because Lee does not know the difference between persimmons and precision. Lee describes this event in a narrative way: “In sixth grade Mrs. Walker / slapped the back of my head / and made me stand in the corner / for not knowing the difference between / persimmon and precision” (1-5). ‘Study of Two Pears’ however, is written as a kind of study exercise, as the title suggests. The exercise starts with Stevens’ plea to the reader not to give in to ones impulse to see the pears and automatically associate them with recognizable objects, which would domesticate them; “The pears are not viols, / nudes or bottles. / They resemble nothing else” (2-4). In terms of form used by the two writers, various differences can also be discovered. Lee’s poem mostly consists of more than four-line stanzas. In more than a few cases even eleven-line couplets. Lee uses a total of thirteen stanzas. The poem by Stevens consists of six four-line verses, and is obviously much shorter than ‘Persimmons’. Lee also tells more than one anecdote in his poem. He talks about how to properly eat a persimmon, about a Caucasian girl Donna, then again about Mrs., Walker, but this time in another scene, about his mother and his father gone blind. Stevens only speaks of the two pears. First, he tries to point out how not to see the pears. After that, he describe them, and tells the reader how not to look at them. Later on, he describes them even more and again explains to the reader how not to see the pears. Stevens never mentions anything else.


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