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Danse Russe Analysis



Author: poem of William Carlos Williams Type: poem Views: 16

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If when my wife is sleeping
and the baby and Kathleen
are sleeping
and the sun is a flame-white disc
in silken mists
above shining trees,—
if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror
waving my shirt round my head
and singing softly to myself:
"I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!"
If I admire my arms, my face,
my shoulders, flanks, buttocks
against the yellow drawn shades—

Who shall say I am not
the happy genius of my household?

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||| Analysis | Critique | Overview Below |||




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Poetry Analysis: "Danse Russe" by William Carlos Williams
William Carlos Williams was a doctor and practiced in pediatrics as well as general medicine.
"Danse Russe" is a very simple yet poignant piece by William Carlos Williams. In ninety-five words we as the reader are able to develop a whole new understanding of Williams (as it is evident that he is the speaker in this piece), what kind of person he is, and the life he lives. He begins his poem with, " If I when my wife is sleeping and the baby and Kathleen are sleeping." This immediately paints a picture of a married man with a newborn child, suggesting the Williams is young at the time, who we understand, after a little research to discover who Kathleen is, is well enough employed to hire a full time nanny. These first lines also illustrate Williams as isolated due to his living in a household in which he is outnumbered by women (not counting the baby). He then talks about the sun just above the trees, "a flame-white disc in silken mists above the shining trees." While he could be describing dusk it is more likely that this seen is set at dawn. If it were night and the sun was just setting, it is more than likely that his wife and nanny would still be up, but since they are asleep, we can assume that it is morning and Williams is getting ready for work. However, beyond their sleeping, we can tell it is morning hours by his description of the mist, more than likely fog, which is generally seen in the morning when the sun is seen in this position, rather than at night moreover, he describes the trees as shining which can be assumed is the result of the morning dew, leaving the reader to safely assume that the time he is describing is dawn, not dusk. He has set the scene around himself, then goes on describe his own situation, "if I in my north room dance naked, grotesquely before my mirror waving my shirt round my head and singing softly to myself:" What he describes comes off as odd initially, but in reality, this is something we all do. Williams describes the human nature to do things in private that in public would be described as odd. Whether that be singing on top of your lungs, dancing, or perhaps talking to yourself. He describes his private identity, one only seen by himself, never revealed in the company of others or in public settings but one we all have. For him, perhaps his expression in private was encouraged by his isolation in his home, being the lone male of the household as we discovered earlier in the piece. He describes the scene as grotesque, showing his uncomfortable feelings toward his body and his own actions, yet he is not bothered enough to stop, inciting that these feelings that so many of us feel toward ourselves and our actions in our own privacy are not weird by our own opinion but by the opinions forced upon us by the public and our peers. He acknowledges that what he is doing would not be acceptable, even within the confines of his own home and explains that he sings but does so softly in order to prevent any of his housemates from awakening and coming across the scene. What exactly is Williams singing? “I am lonely, lonely. I was born to be lonely, I am best so!” This is where Williams emphasizes his isolation within his own household, more than likely brought on by his loneliness as single man providing for a house of women. This isolation stems from his inability to connect with either woman of the house on the same level as he would with another man. His serving as a doctor also probably lends a hand in the creation of this problem. He is constantly coming across new patients which prevent any stability of camaraderie in his professional life and disallows any connection either with a woman or a man. Williams goes on to explain his admiration of his physical existence, stating, ”If I admire my arms, my face, my shoulders, flanks, buttocks against the yellow drawn shades." A reader might assume that perhaps he is acknowledging a creation of God in its beauty, as Religion is common theme among poets, however Williams is a Unitarian so this is less than likely. It is more probable that he is examining the growth and change of his body as it easy to get caught up in life and go unaware of changes not only around you, but to yourself. He has probably lost sense of time in getting wrapped up with a wife, a baby, and a job as a doctor and the time he has alone he clearly values, as can be seen from his stating, "I was born to be lonely, I am best so!” Finally, Williams ends his piece with the question, "Who shall say I am not the happy genius of my household?" As if to ask, who can judge him now in all that he is? He again basks in his isolation, taking joy in that no one can deny him anything at this point because there is no one around to tell him otherwise. Furthermore, this question serves to instill a question into the reader of whether or not we should even qualify the opinions of others whether they are putting us down or perhaps judging our actions. Should we let people judge us on what we like to do in the company of our lonesome self? Should we allow the public to dictate what we say and do and how we act and perform in life? Williams illustrates like so many other have that who we are is not decided by public opinion and what people think about us but instead who we are on the inside, the joy we feel when we our isolated to be ourselves, and what we do when no one is looking.

| Posted on 2016-03-17 | by a guest


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I believe that this poem is about a man who is in a marriage falling apart. He likes being alone, but notice his word choice, he says the baby instead of my baby, that speaks a lot.

| Posted on 2016-01-31 | by a guest


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For me this is a very positive poem. It speaks of freedom an happiness. The poem pictures a very peaceful atmosphere. When everyone else is asleep, he feels free to just spend time on his own, no explanations needed and no judgement. Then, he dances naked, because nobody is watching, grotesqueli, because nobody will judge. And in this moment he feels completely free and alive. The bright light of the sun makes the situation somewhat surreal, what underlines that this moment is somewhat seperated from the rest of his life. it's such a beautiful poem. I think everone knows such moments in her or his life.

| Posted on 2015-06-16 | by a guest


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I think what is expressed is that only when everyone is gone can he truly see himself for what he is. So he stands in front of the mirror and examines himself eventually declaring himself "genius" for discovering himself within the mirror.

| Posted on 2014-08-10 | by a guest


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to me this poem is of a man who appreciates the family he has made. He admires the beauty of his tranquil home as his wife and children sleep in their respective rooms within his household. There is a comfort to him to know they all sleep soundly in their beds. This comfort allows him to be introspective. Knowing that his family is safe, he sits in front of the mirror and while he is uncomfortable with his body he admires the imperfection. This introspection becomes apparent as he states in the poem
"if I in my north room
dance naked, grotesquely
before my mirror..."
As he looks upon his naked body he becomes ashamed and then begins to feel insecurity. as he begins to "sing softly" of his loneliness and insecurity he realizes the beauty of his imperfection and begins to find a strength and confidence within himself.The lyrics of the song are very telling of his strength in insecurity;
"I am lonely, lonely.
I was born to be lonely,
I am best so!"
He begins with judgement of himself then accepts his flaws and finds beauty within himself. Through this inner confidence he is able to admire himself through the reflection in the mirror and with his insight he then becomes the "happy genius of my household".

| Posted on 2014-03-25 | by a guest


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In Danse Russe, William Carlos Williams is taking a step out of the comfort zone. No man would actually tell people, that when their kid and wife is sleeping, they dance naked in front of their mirror. He is saying to everyone, so what if I admire my body and looks at myself, am I not still a man? He say “...who shall say I am not the happy genius of my household?” I believe when he is saying genius he is actually saying am I not the head of the household, because I am relieving my famine side. All man has their famine side, the sensitive side. Only a real man would admit that he is lonely!
Only admitting that he can act like an idiot, but it would only seem idiotic to whoever see it that way, but to him its genius! It is genius to allow you to be yourself. Be comfortable in your own skin. The fact that he deicide to wait until his wife and kid sleep, and draws down the shade so that no one is watching his moment of self-pleasantness, is just so no one can judge him. He is enjoy himself, he is the happy genius of his household, because who can say he is not?

| Posted on 2013-03-07 | by a guest


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I think that the poem is about the guilty pleasure of a man who enjoys being \"foolish\" from time to time. He clearly understands the constraints of his situation as he is probably a respectable man with a wife and children. Dancing butt-naked while you are waving your shirt above your head and admiring your body in front of a mirror would not probably fall under the category of responsible adult behaviour. But, who cares? No one is there to judge him: his family is sleep and the shades are drawn. He is going to enjoy his alone-time as he declares himself the \"happy genius\" of his household.

| Posted on 2012-12-08 | by a guest


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I think this poem is about his inner child. I don\'t think he is a narcissist maybe he is just being silly and foolish. As for the name of the poem I am not sure where that fits in.

| Posted on 2012-09-28 | by a guest


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I think the poem is a celebration of our frivolous self. If we cannot step outside the bounds of normalcy when looking in a mirror when can we?

| Posted on 2012-09-15 | by a guest


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I think when he says \"genius\" he means it in the \"attendant spirit of a place\" manner and not in the \"really smart guy\" manner. He is happy to haunt his own house--indeed, when the rest of the family is asleep, he is allowed to see it not as \"our home\" or \"my family\'s home\" but \"my household.\" He isn\'t struggling against social convention or living a life he doesn\'t want...he\'s just a man delighting in being completely present in a specific moment, alone.

| Posted on 2011-09-22 | by a guest


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I don\'t think it\'s about a man who\'s in the \"wrong life.\" I think it\'s a man expressing his hidden \"grotesque\" qualities, qualities he loves but can only enjoy when he is alone.

| Posted on 2011-09-11 | by a guest


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This is one of my favourite poems. The choice of words, the noir atmosphere, the kind-of-disturbed-ish attitude of the man. I personally think of this poem as a \'confession\' one would only dare to write in his own diary.
The way I see it, it\'s about a man who married a woman and had children (I presume Kathleen is the first daughter and \'the baby\' is the second child?) just for the sake of society\'s opinion on him. While in truth, he just wanted to spend his life alone. He did sound like a chronic narcissist who considered no one as someone worth his attention (except for himself, of course, and thus he\'s always \'lonely\').
And how he\'s proud of himself for successfully fooling those around him, stating that he\'s a \'genius\' who kept up the perfect charade yet still he could enjoy himself secretly. Wow.

| Posted on 2011-06-25 | by a guest


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My analysis consists of him not being able to express himself freely so he has to do it in secret. He only dances when his wife and child are asleep. His life is not what he wants it to be and that is why he is lonely. No one is able to understand his view point. He is taking control of his life because the other aspects in his life are out of his control.

| Posted on 2011-03-31 | by a guest


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William depicts how one man expresses himself when living in a strict society. The \"true\" side comes out when he is feeling lonely. The fact that he has to do this in isolation shows that he\'s not satisfied with his public image. The fact that he can wave his shirt around his head, naked, in front of a mirror proves this. Some people only see things that are visible on the outside of a person and don\'t really see who they truly are. In privacy, society can\'t judge him for what he does. Williams uses the image of the human body to express the reality of how we sometimes cover up our vulnerabilities.

| Posted on 2010-12-20 | by a guest


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I believe it is merely a man who is reveling in a small peice of solitude. William Carlos Williams was both a doctor and a poet balancing the ocupations eventually led to a multiple strokes. I believe the subject in the poem is just taking a moment at the break of day to see who he is becoming. Also the name is in mockery of a popular french dance possibly moking those who look abroad to find answers for America.

| Posted on 2010-11-17 | by a guest


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I think the poem is about a man who's in the wrong life. About the inability in our society to express ourselves in unusual ways to the point where we must hide ourselves, express the "ugly" in secret. Because of this the man is lonely, and trying to convince himself that he's happy when he really isn't.

| Posted on 2009-03-31 | by a guest




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