About Edwin Arlington Robinson: “Edwin Arlington Robinson is poetry. I can think of no other living writer who has so consistently dedicated his life to his work,” declared Amy Lowell in the New York Times Book Review; and nothing could be truer. E.A. Robinson dedicated his entire life to poems, pursuing the art single-mindedly. Born in 1869, E.A. Robinson continued on to write a huge number of poems and poems only. He won three Pulitzer Prizes for his works and he was nominated four times for the Nobel Prize for Literature. Still, even though he was a prolific writer, he is remembered for only a few poems. Richard Cory, The Burning Book, and Miniver Cheevy are some of them. E.A. Robinson, regarded as the first important poet of the twentieth century, died in 1935 of cancer.
About Inferential: The poem Inferential though written in the twentieth century is relevant to all times. This poem is an apt example of humans’ tendencies to be judgmental and often later realize how wrong they were to be so.
Setting of the poem: The poem is set at a funeral site. The narrator is attending the funeral of the one for whom he had the least respect when alive. The thoughts of the narrator in the funeral are the whole poem.
Poetic Devices in Inferential by E.A. Robinson
Allegory: This poem can be considered to be a moral story. The message told by the narrator certainly makes this qualified to be one.
Rhythm: End words of the 1st and 4th line and the 2nd and 3rd line rhyme with each other. The first stanza of the poem follows this sequence. And the last 4 lines of the poem follow the same sequence.
Face-place, men-again, grace-race, then-when; the list continues.
Narrator: The poet makes use of a narrator to tell the poem to a wider audience. The narrator’s thoughts at a funeral form the whole poem.
Inferential Summary by E.A. Robinson
A man known to the narrator is dead. The narrator is attending his funeral. And while looking at his coffin, he feels an unfamiliar grace from the dead man. This surprises him. The narrator never had an ounce of respect for the man when he was alive. And thinking again, he felt that he would not assign any new found respect, now that he is dead. He went so far as to think that the man was a non-essential member of the human species. And now, though he could see the face of the man in the coffin, he felt that the face before him was different. His view of the man had changed.
He felt that there was more to the dead man than he thought. And he (the narrator) realized there was more awe in him (the narrator), now that he (the man) was dead. The dead makes the living feel things they would never feel when they (the dead) are alive. That is their genius, the narrator says. The awe was because he hit upon a sudden realization. He imagined the dead man say that if he (the dead man) did not be so behind, the others would not be so ahead. The imagination can be said to be the subconscious of the narrator.
Inferential Analysis by E.A. Robinson
The narrator of the poem shows the mistaken impressions people often have on others. People are so quick to judge that they do not for a moment consider they were wrong until it was often too late. The narrator of the poem experiences such a situation himself. The man who he judged to be inferior to him had died. He respected the man the least among men. He did not think that such a man was essential in any way to anybody.
But now that he is dead and in his coffin, the narrator realizes that he was wrong. There was more to him, the dead man than he knew. Maybe he knew this from the people who came to the funeral or maybe he just came upon something which he did not while the man was still alive. Either way, he realized he was wrong.
The poem ends with the narrator imagining the dead man to say that if some people were not behind, then there would be no people at the front.
By this, the poet tries to say that maybe, all the negativity we see in others is not an actual impression of them but a biased opinion of us; that maybe, so that we can feel superior, we deem others inferior, unfairly if necessary. This is supported by the last three sentences of the poem. If there was no behind, then there can be no one ahead. If there was no one inferior, no one can feel superior. If there was no one little respectable, there is no one enough respectable.
Central Idea of Inferential: The poem shows the readers the often wrong impressions humans carry of others. This is shown in an apt and somber way in the poem. The poem makes one think of themselves, and what they thought of others. It makes one go over the things one feels of others, and why one feels them. The central idea of the poem is to make the readers reconsider and reevaluate their judgments of others.
Tone of the poem: The tone of the poem is somber and introspective. The somber tone of the poem is no surprise considering the narrator is at a funeral. The introspection and wondering tone is due to the fact that whatever the narrator believed when the dead man was alive was now looking to be false and baseless. And now he thinks if it wasn’t all him all along.
Conclusion: Edwin Arlington Robinson shows through this poem how a misunderstanding between humans can occur due to the sub conscious working of the mind of one. The narrator of the poem feels a little respect for a man when he was alive, but he (the man) dies, he reconsiders his thoughts. Whatever reason blinded the narrator from seeing the true man was gone. He could see that there was more to the man than he allowed himself to think. And at the end, his subconscious spoke to him; and it felt like the man himself spoke out of the grave: if I was not behind, then you would not be ahead. This makes the narrator think that his lack of respect towards the man was not on part of the man, but on himself.