Summary and Analysis of Shoes by Charles Bukowski: 2022

About the Poet:

Henry Charles Bukowski (August 16, 1920- March 1994) was a German poet born in America. He was not only a poet but also a novelist, and a short story writer. His writing was greatly influenced by the social, cultural and economic environment of his home city in Los Angeles. His poems would largely include themes of the poor lives of the American rural classes, alcohol, relationships with women, and the drudgery of work. His work is described by many as that of a realist with dark tones to his poems and a sense of escapism, alienation, depression, and loneliness.

Introduction to the poem:

The poem as described by Charles Bukowski is about the soul of a woman in reference to her shoes. Bukowski speaks of a time when the high heeled shoes of the young woman sitting on top of a closet would have “fired your bones” with an insight into the hidden nature and soul of the woman. But once she is older, the value of the shoes on the same closet do not hold as much value to the other individual.

The setting of Shoes:

Like most of Bukowski’s poems, there is not much of an indication of the venue or the time in which the poem has been set. Despite these factors, what is clearly portrayed is a phase of time period emphasising on the ageing of the mentioned lady along with that of the high heeled shoes.

Poetic Devices in Shoes:

Line 1: “When you’re young”
Line 4: “high-heeled shoes”
Line 7 and 8: “in the closet
                          Can fire your”
The shoes symbolise the soul of a woman and are compared to situations when she is young and that of when she is old.

Summary of Shoes:

The poet talks about a pair of high-heeled shoes and the lady that owns them, passing through a phase of time. Charles Bukowski narrates the changes in the interpretation of the woman’s soul on the basis of her high-heeled shoes. He defines the younger phase of the shoes to signify her nature or character, but after she gets much older, the soul and character to those shoes are lost.

Critical Analysis of Shoes:

Charles Bukowski is a poet that dictates the soul of a woman deciphered by a third person in two instances- once when she is young and once when she is old. Her characters during the younger half of her life are described as a secretively courageous and outgoing soul but the same soul is perceived as common and average in the latter half of her life. Bukowski describes the transition in the interpretation of a woman and her shoes with aspect to the difference in her age. He highlights the fact that women will always be stereotyped and judged for their choices no matter what the truth holds. Bukowski also narrates the aspects of ageing reflecting on smaller personal belongings such as a pair of high-heeled shoes.

Central Idea of Shoes:

Bukowski’s poem, Shoes, is around the high- heeled shoes of a woman that are perceived by people in two stages of her life- once when she is young and the other when she is old. The nature of the same soul is interpreted as two different characteristics at the two stages of life. He describes the later phase of her life to be empty and devoid of any soul much like the body of the woman when old.

The tone of Shoes:

The poem begins with Bukowski narrating the visual of a pair of high-heeled shoes sitting aloof in a closet. He speaks of such a vision to be enough to ignite your bones with the fire of passion and curiosity. But he also states later that such a pair was seen sitting in the same place decades later without any soulfulness residing in it as before.


Bukowski dictates this poem with the factors of age changing the perception of the woman’s smaller personal belongings such as her pair of high-heeled shoes. The woman’s character is seen to be passionate and mysterious in the earlier stages of her life and the same character is shown to be empty and hollow in her later stages. The stereotypical nature of society on a woman’s soul is easily deduced in this poem. Although her soul possibly could be empty in reality in her later years, the imposed label from society’s perspective is what is highlighted in this poem throughout.
Contributor: Deeksha Honawar

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