The Laughing Heart Analysis by Charles Bukowski

It addresses all of humanity in person and tries to ignite the inner vitality. It also challenges carefully crafted social and religious structures.

Themes:Light and Darkness: The poem is, at its heart, optimistic and motivational. Bukowski plays with the motifs of light and dark as visual clues to represent the hardships human beings go through in their lives, and their recovery from said hardships. Darkness (troubles in life) can be overcome with a bit of illumination, no matter how small. Light can be interpreted as freedom, recovery from hardships or wisdom. In short, darkness represents all the negative things in life, while light represent all things positive.

Life and Death: The struggle between life and death is a universal and a timeless theme. Right from Classical poets to Modern ones, this theme has been a centerpiece. The reason is simple- the inevitability of death. No one can beat death. The only truth and certain thing we have in our life is our death. Bukowski thinks that this should not deter us from living a life in fear of mortality. Instead, the life can only become meaningful if one has lived it to the lees. Life is transient, and it will fade away. But that is no reason to keep it bottled up or ‘clubbed’ into a ‘dank’ space. Life should be enjoyed, glorified, made the most of. Opportunities should be grabbed so that there are no regrets.

Religious tolerance: This theme is subtle yet powerful. The line ‘the gods wait to delight in you’ represents a tolerance for all religions. This works in a double way because it not only suggests a tolerance for all religions, but it also recognizes the existence of religions that worship multiple deities.

Rhythm, Metre and Literary Devices: The poem is written in blank verse. In fact, the poem reads almost like prose. The blank verse allows the poet to express his thoughts freely, without the rules of metre and rhythm trying to confine him. This produces the effect of free flowing thought, like a conversation. I think it is this particular affect that gives the poem the semblance of ‘stream of consciousness’. Bukowski’s deliberate usage of lowercase letters throughout the poem is another challenge to the established rules of writing. Even though this poem is uncharacteristic of Bukowski, I think, he finds a way to challenge the existing standards and ideals in his own way.

The poem is a brave prayer for humanity. An attempt to save it from passive degradation. It is not only a motivational poem; it’s a wake-up call. It is a request from  a poet, who is too happy to write pages on the American lowlife and abject degradation of life, to overcome the negativity life deals us and turn it into something positive and beautiful. Just like the poet did in his art.