Zildjian Robinson & Hayden HammertimeThe City Planners – By Margaret AtwoodStanza 1 Overview:Stanza 1 arises a predicament of the uniformness of suburbia describing smallthings like trees, grass and houses (nature). The diction ties in with the conceptof nothing exciting happening in suburbia. For example, words like offend,sanitary, levelness, abrupt, rational and discouraged don’t inspire any excitingthought or captivation. Where words like “raw, cry or moan” could have beenused to depict the sound of a mower the word “whine” has been used which isovertly blandLine 1: “Cruising” gives an indication of the diction in the poem; easygoing feel.“Residential” introduces the idea of real estate early. “Sunday” helps emphasisthe feel; relaxed, fun, enjoyable.Line 2: “Dry August sunlight” refers to the province in which the poet comesfrom (Canada), more specifically the precise climate in Canada, in the month ofAugust (Summer). The Adjective “dry” helps emphasis this.Line 3 & 4: The noun “sanities” talks about their perception on suburbia. Thedefinition of the word sanity varies from discipline to discipline. But one thingcommon with all the interpretations of this word is that it means to be reasonableand have sound of mind. In this context it is a noun as it is almost like a title tothe line. It also describes the way the poet perceives suburbia being that it isoverly constructed. At the end of line 4 there is a colon, which shows there isgoing to be a list of something. Atwood possibly used the word sanity as she iscommenting on a lower socio economic perspective.Line 5: “Pedantic” means ordered and uniform. It talks about the houses orderbeing too thought over and overly constructed.Line 6 – 8: Talks about how the trees are being planted so uniformly it has aresemblance to the surface of a car door with a dent in it. Society can familiarizewith a dent in a car door better than the way these trees are planted in suburbia.More over this use of visual imagery helps the reader identify with this or it couldbe a simile referring to the fluctuating height difference between trees similar tothat of a dent in a car door. Also, the use of this particular imagery has negativeconnotations. The use of “our” makes the statement more personal- somethingwe (the audience) can relate to.Line 9: “No shouting here” puts suburbia in a good light. It describes how it is agood area to live in, in comparison to areas in an economic struggle, so to speak.Note: This line is the only line in stanza one that begins with a capital letter,excluding line one, which gives special attention to this line, which represents aslight change of an idea.
Zildjian Robinson & Hayden HammertimeLine 10: Continues the idea of suburbia being perfect, as it were.Line 11: “Rational whine” could be perceived as an oxymoron. When we think ofa whine, we think of a baby crying or nagging its mother but when paired with theverb “rational” it makes it acceptable. A “power mower” gives the source of the“whine” and it gives a distinct description of the lawnmower with the adjectivepower.Line 12: “Straight swath” means a path that is neat and well groomed.“Discouraged grass” could mean one of two things; the grass being discouragedreferring to how often it is cut, most probably by a personal gardener or two,discouraged meaning fake grass.Stanza Two OverviewContinues the predicament that challenges suburbia in a way by pointing outflaws. There is a distinct similarity to stanza one and two, that there is a list ofcomplaints, so to speak, of things that are “offensive” in suburbia with effectiveuse of imagery. Stanza two also suggests the idea that there will be a change infocus or a resolution that is brought about in stanza three.Line 13 – 17: The conjunction “but” adds continuity between stanza one and two.The phrase talking about “driveways that neatly side-step hysteria” talks abouthow the form of the driveways can represent suburbia as a whole, evades beingcrazy (hysteria). Also it is good to note the link between sanities and hysteria-that they both link to a mental well-being/ state. It suggests hysteria is still therebut they temporarily “side step” it by being “even”.“The roofs all display the same slant of avoidance to the hot sky” is a good use ofvisual imagery that is a direct reference to the shape of the roofs. The colon atthe end of the line leaves room for a list- similar to stanza one.Line 18: When read aloud this line has a nice ring to it. It familiarizes with oursense of smell, with the adjective “faint”. The line ends at faint because it rhymeswith paint in line 20 and they have a significant relevance to eachother- oil, paintand the imagery attached to it.Line 19: “Sickness” in the garages refers to the aforementioned concept of “side-stepping hysteria”, although suburbia suggests flawlessness and perfectness,there are still flaws that are inevitable and flaws that will be alluded to in stanzathree.Line 20: Gives the analogy of a rogue of paint that would be on the house that is“surprising as a bruise”. When a bruise appears on the body it is very surprising.Possibly from the belief that the bruise induced injury doesn’t constitute thebruise or that it is surprising that it is an injury that can’t be explained, that theinjury has been forgotten or from not remembering how or why it happened. Thismetaphor gives incite into the perception of people in suburbia.
Zildjian Robinson & Hayden HammertimeLine 21-22: Furthers the concepts of flaws in suburbia. Gives a description of agarden appliance that is usually positive or neutrally accepted in society a badperception. This image with the help of words such, as “viscous coil” arereminiscent of the form of a snake. The semi-colon leaves room for elaboration.The “too fixed stare” could be a reference to the eyes of a snake with its eyes“fixed” on its prey.Stanza 3 Overview:Stanza three is the end of complaints and shows the consequences of being sogreedy. It also shows the reality of the real estate agency. This stanza is short,swift and simple.Line 23-25: Is a continuing sentence from stanza two. It talks about the “too fixedstare” of the windows giving a small glimpse into the realities of material things-they will eventually succumb to nothing, this is conveyed by line 23 where it says“gives momentary access” aswell as line 25 where it says; “the future cracks inthe plaster”. The landscape referred to in line 24 is in a literal sense and it is thenature (trees) that can be seen through the windows.Line 26-28: The preposition “when” says it will happen eventually. And theadjective “capsized” explains the outcome of these houses. The term “clay seas”could refer to the already capsized houses in abundance of dirt/ rubble. Dirt andrubble referring to the clay and the quantity referring to the seas. It also suggeststhis day or reckoning, so to speak, with the use of the simile “gradual as glaciers”in line 27- alliteration also used in the simile to emphasis the significance of thisparticular poetic device. Line 28 summarizes the stanza with no flash adjectivesor complex poetic techniques. It also shows that “nobody” possibly being thepeople of suburbia they do not see the big picture of their graceful estate(s).Stanza Four Overview:Introduces a new idea that being the “city planners”, who they are and wherethey work. The phrasing of the real estate agents gives a sense of power orauthority to them saying they plan the city and they have complete control of theway houses are bought/sold- they claim to act in the best interest of only oneparty that being the buyer or seller but the reality is they not only act on the bestinterest for both parties, but for themselves as well.Line 29-32: Talks about the “city planners” who we interpreted to be real estateagents and where their work is most prominent. The similarities between theintense work ethic depicted by facial expression of political conspirators and realestate agents is conveyed by visual imagery. Line 32 tells of where these realestate agents work, with the noun “territories”. The word “scattered” shows thefrantic movement of these agents work and “unsurveyed territories” shows thateach and every house will be worked on.
Zildjian Robinson & Hayden HammertimeLine 33: Makes a comparison with the people of suburbia and a blizzard. It iscommon knowledge that one in the eye of a blizzard has little vision to anythingoutside that blizzard; similarly the people of suburbia are so self-absorbed thatthey are in a metaphorical blizzard. Or a more accurate interpretation withreference to the previously mentioned idea of real estate agents could be talkingabout the selfishness of real estate agents in respects to the commission theyattain.Stanza Five OverviewIn respect to the other stanzas has abstract ideas and words which help conveythis vanishing, transitory and blizzards for example, as opposed to more concretewords such as sanities, levelness, rational, avoidance and capsized (wordswhich are closed to one interpretation).Line 34: “Guessing directions” could describe the direction of where the mostflourishing market is at the present time. The adjective guessing shows the mostflourishing market is in constant. Initially we thought “they” refers to architects asit uses terminology such as sketching and lines and other conventions familiar toarchitects. But as there is a semi-colon at the end of stanza four, it is now clearthat it refers back to the real estate agents.Line 35: Words such as transitory, rigid and guessing (with reference to line 34)makes the concept unclear and inconstant which gives us a different effect also itlikens the “transitory lines” to the inconstant or rigid nature of wooden boarders.Finally, something to note is the adjective used in line 35, “transitory”, as it is asynonym for the adjective “momentary” used in line 23 in stanza three.Line 36: We interpreted the white wall to be figurative and could represent theminds eye of the real estate agents and where they will work.Line 37: “Tracing” links to “sketch” in line 34 and is used figuratively. The use ofthis word means that it is not happening now but it will happen, similar to the ideaportrayed in stanza three. The use of the noun suburb is used with reference tosuburbia and the panic could refer to the chaotic nature of the real estateindustry.Line 38: Carries on the idea from line 37 talking about a “bland madness” whichcontinues the theme of chaos in respects to the real estate industry- blandpossibly meaning a madness that is sensationalized. It’s almost like anoxymoron, the metaphorical term “snows” is an extended metaphor from line 33talking about people, real estate agents, in particular being blinded by a“blizzard”, “snow” or “madness” there of.
Zildjian Robinson & Hayden HammertimeNote: Through stanza 4,5 and 6, there is a continuance of ideas/ concepts andextended metaphors used which links these ideas much like stanza one and twolink by having a list of complaints. This is effective as it gives the poem continuityand helps the ideas develop thoroughly hence making it flow nicely.Biographical InformationMargaret Eleanor Atwood, (born November 18, 1939) is a Canadian writer. Aprolific poet, novelist, literary critic, feminist and activist, she is a winner of theBooker Prize and Arthur C. Clarke Award, and has been a finalist for theGovernor Generals Award seven times, winning twice. Atwood is among themost-honored authors of fiction in recent history.While she is best known forher work as a novelist, her poetry is noteworthy. Many of her poems have beeninspired by myths, and fairy tales, which were an interest of hers from an earlyage.Born in Ottawa, Ontario, Atwood is the second of three children of Carl EdmundAtwood, an entomologist, and Margaret Dorothy Killiam, a former dietitian andnutritionist. Due to her father’s ongoing research in forest entomology, Atwoodspent much of her childhood in the backwoods of Northern Quebec and back andforth between Ottawa, Sault Ste. Marie and Toronto. She did not attend schoolfull-time until she was 11 years old. She became a voracious reader of refinedliterature, Dell pocketbook mysteries, Grimms Fairy Tales, Canadian animalstories, and comic books. She attended Leaside High School in Leaside, Torontoand graduated in 1959.Atwood began writing at age six and realized she wanted to write when she was16. In 1957, she began studying at Victoria University in the University ofToronto. Her professors included Jay Macpherson and Northrop Frye. Shegraduated in 1961 with a Bachelor of Arts in English (honours) and minors inphilosophy and French.In the fall of 1961, after winning the E.J. Pratt Medal for her privately-printed bookof poems, Double Persephone, she began graduate studies at HarvardsRadcliffe College with a Woodrow Wilson fellowship. She obtained a mastersdegree (MA) from Radcliffe in 1962 and pursued further graduate studies atHarvard, for 2 years, but never finished because she never completed adissertation on “The English Metaphysical Romance” in 1967. She has taught atthe University of British Columbia (1965), Sir George Williams University inMontreal (1967-68), the University of Alberta (1969-79), York University inToronto (1971-72), and New York University, where she was Berg professor ofEnglish.
Zildjian Robinson & Hayden HammertimeIn 1968, Atwood married Jim Polk, whom she divorced in 1973. She got togetherwith fellow novelist Graeme Gibson soon after and moved to Alliston, Ontario,north of Toronto. In 1976 their daughter, Eleanor Jess Atwood Gibson, was born.(Graeme Gibson had two sons, Matt and Grae, from a previous marriage.)Atwood returned to Toronto in 1980. She divides her time between Toronto andPelee Island, Ontario.Atwood and her partner Graeme Gibson are members of the Green Party ofCanada and strong supporters of GPC leader Elizabeth May, whom Atwood hasreferred to as fearless, honest, reliable and knowledgeable. Atwood has strongviews on environmental issues,, such as suggesting that petrol-powered leafblowers and lawn mowers be banned, and has made her own home more energyefficient – including not having air-conditioning - by installing awnings andskylights that open. She and her husband also use a hybrid car when they are inthe city.THEMESBlizzards and snows are used as an extended metaphor for the blindness andconfusion of a city that is completely bland and uniform, in which the peopledo not even realise how routine and structured their lives and the suburbia ingeneral are in reality.