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Complete Destruction Analysis

Author: poem of William Carlos Williams Type: poem Views: 5

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It was an icy day.

We buried the cat,

then took her box

and set fire to it

in the back yard.

Those fleas that escaped

earth and fire

died by the cold.


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Complete Destruction by William Carlos Williams Analysis
The poem, Complete Destruction, by William Carlos Williams documents the narrator’s deposal of the family cat that died due to fleas. The cold, “icy day” sets the somber, sad scene in which the family mourns the death of its cat and in which the fleas suffers their terrible doom (l. 1). “We buried the cat” in a symbolic act of remembrance towards the house pet and in hopes that a burial would lessen the blow the cat’s death dealt to the children’s mind (l. 2). Notice how “we,” the family, buried it, but there is no number of people who “set fire to it” (l. 2, 4). This allows for the possibility that the children were not at home when the cat was exhumed and embalmed allowing them to be spared the horror of seeing their companion being incinerated to ashes. By keeping his children away from unnecessary psychological damage it can be seen that the narrator is compassionate and protective of his children, but he does not fondle them. He defends his family with love.
The fleas that killed the house cat die by “the cold/… earth and fire” (l. 7, 8). When they “buried the cat” they buried her fleas along with her and her fleas had to survive their subterranean incarceration (l. 2). The narrator then “took her box/ and set fire to it” in an attempt to kill all the fleas that killed the cat (l. 3, 4). After he buries them in the earth and immolates them in fire “Those fleas that escaped/… died by the cold” of that “icy day” that brought further grief to the grieving family (l. 6, 8, 1). If the family owned more cats it would be paramount that they rid their house of fleas to keep the rest of their cats safe and the burning was the narrator’s attempt to protect his household from the fleas and from further grieving. Again we see the narrator as the protector but unlike with the children he is not purely peaceful in his goodness for with the fleas he is unkind and swift to punish. He is defends his house with war.
We know that William Carlos Williams was not only a poet but a doctor and that a “deep sense of humanity pervaded both his work in medicine and his writings” (Poetry Foundation). The narrator’s humanity, compassion, swift action and knowledge of pests are all traits not only desirable in doctors but traits that the author carried in him and in his poems throughout his entire life.

| Posted on 2010-05-11 | by a guest

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