While not actually fighting in World War II, 60-year-old Wallace Stevens was able to convey the emotions of the civilians in the United States and other countries. Stevens’ poems about the war show the paranoia and universal feeling of pain in American culture during wartime. After the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, American citizens became increasing aware of the possibility that the United States could become a war zone. In Stevens’ poem, “Dutch Graves in Bucks County,” this idea that the civilians, not only the soldiers, could be exposed to enemy interaction is addressed. This possible reality is shown as Stevens describes, “Angry men and furious machines swarm from the little blue of the horizon” (1-2). In these lines, Stevens is able to show the reader that these war machines are capable of completely invading the civilians’ helpless homeland. Stevens shows the fear that these citizens are experiencing during this tense time period of the war. Later in “Dutch Graves in Bucks County,” Stevens writes, “The violent marchers of the present, rumbling along the autumnal horizon, in arcs of a chaos composed in more than order, march toward a generation’s centre” (64-69). Again, Stevens is describing the effects that the spread of the war will have on the entire civilian population and the omnipresent feeling of fear. Stevens’ imagery of the soldiers rumbling along the horizon gives the reader an eerie sense of the future and using the phrase “generation’s centre” shows the propinquity of the war on the reader. Through this poem and others such as “Esthétique du Mal,” Stevens is able to highlight a prevalent feeling in society and truly display these emotions.
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