Analysis of Keeping Quiet by Pablo Neruda

The poem is a very simple, and is written in a free verse. The poet has paused on the points where he wants the reader to ponder on, and understand the meaning. There are no rhyming words, or sentences, that are seen in almost all the poems of Neruda, including this one. The themes that are present in the poem are about introspect, retrospect, and brotherhood among the people of the world. The significance of counting till twelve could be that it divides a day in two parts of twelve hours each. Another interesting fact about the poem is that even the title has twelve letters in it.

The values that are seen in the poem are about introspection, where everyone stops and thinks about the purpose of their actions, and how it is benefitting them in the end, retrospection, where we have o look back at our own actions in the history, where we have created wars, and have taken many lives, brotherhood, where the differences due to boundaries of cultures and countries are neglected, and we leave together in peace and harmony.

Neruda asks everyone to count till twelve and then keep still. In these twelve seconds, he wants everyone to calm down, relax, and get ready to begin introspection and retrospection. He wants that people speak no languages at all for few minutes and just think. By this action, he wants people to slow down and not think of their busy schedule and lives for sometime, and think about the things that happens and had happened across them, and the purpose of all of them. He says that these moments of silence would be “exotic” and exciting, where people let their thoughts run about the purpose of the lives they are leading in the world.

He tries to bring about violence, which is not only against humans, by also the violence that it has posed towards nature. By this, he tries to put light on the selfish motif of human beings of their survival, and exploit everything for that. The third paragraph about fishermen killing whales in the cold sea is a dual metaphor here, where the poet tries to point towards the cruel nature towards other species, and the wide class division of the society. In the third paragraph, the poet tries to say that the fishermen are the oppressors of the society, and the men gathering salt are the oppressed ones. He appeals to the oppressor to forget about hunting or suppressing the weak for their benefit, and the men gathering salt to forget their struggle and pain, and think about each other as brothers.

The poet brings about the irony of the war, where there is a victory of with no survivors, a joy that the dead cannot celebrate. He appeals to the readers to stop violence amongst themselves, and also on nature, for their selfish deeds of survival, and wear “clean clothes”. Here, the term “clean clothes” could mean clothes with no markers of an army, or country, or culture, or medals. He tries to dissolve all the markers of discrimination amongst human beings.

The poet further takes the burden to explain the difference between inactivity and being still. He wants the mind of the readers to work towards introspection and retrospection. Here, the poet is being clever to draw the outline of his intentions and his expectations from the readers. He tries to encourage the readers to think about the purpose of their schedules, and tries to put light that how much humans underestimate themselves and are negative about them. He tries to put across his thought of appreciating one-self in order to make all the sadness go away from each person’s life.

The poet tries to pass the message of tough survival and hope by giving an example of the cycle of seasons that the Earth goes through every year, where winter covers the environment with cold of lifelessness, and spring brings the rays of life, hope and warmth again. These lines act as a dual metaphor for the woes and worries of people, and try to tell that everything goes through a cycle of good and bad times.

In the last lines, the poet tries to be the spectator of the entire phenomenon, and cleverly leaves the poem by letting people continue with the train of thoughts. This also could be an intention of the poet to push himself out of the image of humans that he has created in his poem, or exclude himself from every action that he speaks about of human nature. This seclusion could also mean that the poet has gone through the moments of introspection and retrospection many times, and now wishes the readers to do so too.


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