Autowreck Analysis by Carl Shapiro

Auto Wreck Analysis In “Auto Wreck,” Karl Shapiro uses the element of imagery very effectively in order to raise some basic philosophical questions. Now, it is also necessary to know that Karl Shapiro was a poet with a different mindset than other poets. He attempted to free poets’ and readers’ minds from the thoughts that poems could only be about things portrayed as beautiful, such as nature or love. He managed to incorporate things into his poem most people see as terrible, the main examples being this automobile wreck and the entire trauma surrounding it.

One simile that stuck out to me a lot was the one in line 3, stating (And down the dark one ruby flare/ Pulsing out red light like an artery). Specifically, the word pulse stuck out to me.

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Not only was this a simile, but also an instance of imagery. It put a vivid image in my head, an unmistakable one, if you will. The pulsating light really struck me as important, with a sense of urgency attached. I had pictured the ambulance driver speeding past all the other cars, with nothing else on his mind except helping the poor defenseless people that had been so severely injured by this automobile wreck, that their cars resembled locust nests.

Shapiro also stuck out from other poets by using imagery differently.

He used it in conjunction with personification. See line one, stating (…Soft silver bell beating, beating,). I believe this line was meant to describe how fragile the lives of the bystanders were, as well as to symbolize a human heart. The echo and repetition of the heartbeat again shows the discomfort in the bystanders, and shows the disturbances flowing into their hearts. Line 21 also had meaning to me.

Shapiro compared the remains of wrecked automobiles on the street to (empty husks of locusts…).

The cars, being wrapped around the poles they have crashed into, represent the locusts’ nest. However, locusts can escape and leave their nests at ease, while humans are trapped inside their cars, injured, sometimes to the point of death. Now the end of the poem incorporates the question (…Who shall die? ). The poem is set off by the strategic use of psychological questions the bystanders face inside themselves.

Shapiro talks as if Death is a person himself, who chooses victims, whether it be through suicide, through war, or through cancer. He leaves automobile accidents until the end, when he concludes that automobile wrecks are in fact one of the only causes of death that is random, and seizes the innocent from their everyday lives.

While of course, lives are lost in the automobile crashes themselves, there is one more impact the crash makes. The crash heavily, heavily affects the bystanders and witnesses.

They are essentially mentally torn down, and shown that they could very well be the next victim, randomly seized by Death. Their comfort is gone, and the bystander is left emotionally defenseless. Essentially, there is one last victim in the whole situation.

I know this to be the reader. The reader themselves gets broken down, and is shown that even they could be Death’s very next victim! This is the universal idea that this poem states- That nobody is ever out of Death’s reach, which successfully raises philosophical questions, just as Karl Shapiro intended.