Summary and Analysis of Stuck In The Rain On The Freeway by Bukowski

Last updated on August 22nd, 2020 at 08:50 pm

Introduction to the Poet:

Henry Charles Bukowski  (born Heinrich Karl Bukowski; August 16, 1920 – March 9, 1994) was a German-born American poet, novelist, and short story writer. His home city Los Angeles’ social, economic, political background influenced his writing. His writing deals with the lives of poor Americans, downtrodden of American society, alcoholism, relationship with women, act of writing and drudgery of work.
Born in Germany and brought to United States at the tender age of two, he had grown up seeing the society and culture of US. Beaten by his father at the tiniest of offenses, bullied by boys of his own age and later on being rejected by women due to his complexion; he was in misery.
Attending Los Angeles City College and dropping out during World War II, he went to New York with the endeavor of becoming a writer. In 1946, he gave up writing and thus followed ten years of no writing which he called “ten-year drunk” in his autobiography. Ending up near death in Los Angeles, Bukowski started writing again, though he would continue to drink and cultivate his reputation as a hard-living poet. He did not begin his professional writing career until the age of thirty-five.
Ham on Rye, Post Office, Dinosauria,We, Darkling, The Soldier, The Wife And The Bum, Notes of a Dirty Man are some of his famous works.
He died of leukemia on March 9, 1994, in San Pedro, aged 73.

The Poem:

The poem deals with the imagery of a busy  freeway. The poem effectively  brings out the situations and regular affairs of the current position of the different classes of the society . The daily activities of the various classes of a society are wonderfully portrayed here. The ‘life goes on’ concept is perfectly evident here. The poem is a wonderfully written piece.

Summary of Stuck In The Rain On The Freeway:

“stuck in the rain ………
cigarettes, trying not to think.”
The poet is describing a scene on busy freeway at 6:15 in the evening. This is generally the time when most working class people return from their respective workplace. It is raining and the poet’s car is stuck in traffic. Due to this the cars are slowly moving. The motion of the cars on the freeway is described as being first stationery the moving in first gear only to stop again. It is written in a way that describes a mundane and routine activity. The poet consider these people as ‘the lucky ones’ since they have a job and are smoking and listening to car radio loudly and trying not to ‘think’ (worry about their life, spouse kids, other responsibilities and troubles).
“this is a large portion of our civilization and as beings
once lived in trees and caves now they very often live
inside of automobiles upon freeways”
Here the poet brings in about a comparison with the early men. He tells us that human beings have just evolved to live in their cars on the freeway from being used to living in caves and trees. This means that most of the working class people spend a lot of time in their cars stuck in traffic. He also mentions that this category of people constitute a huge percentage of today’s population.
“as the world news is heard over and over, the popular
songs, the rock songs, the love songs, all the songs,
love songs, love love love as
we shift from first gear to neutral and back to first.”
The people on radio listen to the news again and again and then move on to listening to songs from different genres. Repetitions of the word love may refer to the abundance and multitude of love songs being played on the radio at that time. Again the mundane activity of shifting through the gears is expressed as the drivers move from first to neutral and back to first gear.
“there’s a poor …………….in the rain
the other cars force around his car, pull into the next
lane against cars determined to shut them off.”
Here the poet describes an unfortunate man whose car has either broken down or heated up. He has opened the hood of the car and is waiting either for a mechanic or for the engine to cool down. He is standing against the freeway fence and is covering his head with a newspaper to protect himself from the rain.
The other cars ignoring him or rather his car are moving as usual around is car without any care. These cars then move to the next lane against the cars to ‘shut them off’.
“in the lane ………..speeding ticket as
suddenly the rain comes down in a giant wash and all the
cars stop and”
Here the poet describes a scene in which a car moving in the right lane is followed by a police car. The poet does not think that this might be a case of speeding. This may be because that car like all others is moving slowly in first gear. Then suddenly it starts raining again and all the cars come to a stop again.
“even with the windows up I can smell somebody’s clutch
burning out
hope it’s not mine as
the wall of water diminishes and we go back to first
gear as we are a long way from Johnny Carson’s monologue
tonight
we are …………RAT TODAY?”
The windows have been rolled up because of the rain. Even then the poet could smell someone’s clutch burning and he hopes it’s not his. Again the rain starts falling and again the drivers move to the first gear.  The poet tells that there’s still a long time to hear Johnny Carson’s (a late show host broadcasting at around 10 p.m.) monologue. He the remarks that they all are a ‘long way from anything meaning’ they are stuck in traffic and moving so slowly that destination still seem distant. He again remarks on the gait of the traffic by saying that they are moving so slow that he has memorized the shape of the car in his front and his license plate and bumper sticker.
“suddenly I have the urge to urinate while 17 miles from
where I live as another wall of water comes down and the
man on the radio announces that there will be a 70 percent
chance of showers tomorrow night.”
The poet suddenly feels the urgency to urinate and he is still 17 miles from his home and again rain pours heavily, following the same mundane routine. At last the poet hears on the radio that there’s 70 percent chance of raining tomorrow night meaning the same mundane and tiring routine.


Critical Analysis of Stuck In The Rain On The Freeway:

The poem ‘the lucky ones’ is a poem which deals with a scene on a freeway at 6:15 p.m. in the evening when all workers are returning home from work. This poem thus stays true to Bukowski’s style and theme of writing i.e. about the lower middle class and hard living people. This poem is a series of declarative sentences written in a long column describing the scene as seen and experienced by the poem. The poet himself is part of this large group of people who are the subject of his poem. This again stays true to Bukowski’s autobiographical style of writing. The poem has clever uses of live anecdotes to convey something rather than use of metaphors. This is something Bukowski is known for. The poem, as is generally seen in his work is mostly narrative describing a scene or an event. The clever use of rain and shifting of gears bring out the repetitive and mundane routine ‘the lucky ones’ go through. The description of songs and news on a radio, the smoking, bumper stickers, Johnny Carson etc. all help make the poem more relatable and bring out a realistic description of an evening on a freeway.

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Central Idea of Stuck In The Rain On The Freeway:

The central idea revolving throughout the poem is to depict the routine and mundane life of the vast majority of the working class population in general. The poet uses the scene on a freeway in the evening when the workers are returning home in their cars. The unfortunate man whose car has been broken down and cars forcing their way around him represents the extent these people are accustomed to problems and are self absorbed. The repetitive use of shifting of gears and gush of water from the downpour shows the mundane mood and routine of the people. The poet calls them as ‘the lucky ones’ since they have a job and they can smoke and try to forget about their problems in their car. Every day while returning home from work, they have this private moment just to themselves where they can just try to remain aloof from their troubles and responsibilities of life while till into the deep clutches of their routine life.

Tone of Stuck In The Rain On The Freeway:

Throughout the poem the tone is narrative. The scene presents a monotonic and mundane shade. The repetitive shifting of gears, as the cars move slowly only to stop again and ‘wall of water’ gushing again and again. The poem presents a dull kind of mood as the traffic moves ever so slowly.

Conclusion:

The poem is a wonderfully woven tale of monotonous life of  the working class of society in Bukowski’s viewpoint. The simple and subtle way in which Bukowski effectively portrays every detail is worth a read and a beautiful creation.
Contributor: Bidisha Das

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