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Analysis of appearances


            Theme for the Unknown, Red Transportation.
             While the four poems, "Public Transportation," "The Unknown Citizen," "The Red Wheelbarrow," and "Theme for English B" encompass a wide variety of styles, they all address a similar theme. Each poem involves the idea of appearances and, in most cases, the misrepresentation of the entities behind them.
             In "Public Transportation," by Elaine Sexton, the theme is the most obvious, the narrator stating it herself within the poem. Throughout the poem, she is fantasizing about the secret lives of her fellow commuters and gives several illustrations of the possibility of a person's appearance indicating a lifestyle that is diametrically opposite of the person's actual one. The narrator explicitly expresses this idea when she says "Everyone is someone other than you think under her skin" (Sexton).
             W. H. Auden's "The Unknown Citizen" also touches on the idea of the misleading appearance. The narrator tells of a man who walked the best-fit curve his whole life, a man who exactly fits the statistics of the average man in his time and locality. The end of the poem is the most significant, however. After telling the audience of the regularity of this man's life, the narrator muses "Was he free? Was he happy? The question is absurd: / Had anything been wrong, we should certainly have heard" (Auden). The reader can sense the sarcasm in these lines. The narrator is implying that if the man had been unhappy, no one would have known; the man in question is the type to accept his fate as it is, not wondering if there is another way to live. Here, the theme of misleading appearances is not as evident, but is still present. The man's outer characteristics block anyone from peering into his soul. His appearance gives no indication of his possible unhappiness.
             "The Red Wheelbarrow," by William Carlos Williams, does not address people's appearances specifically, but the ability of outer characteristics to hide the intrinsic significance of objects or people in general.


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