Philosophers have pondered the meaning of life and death
since the beginning of time. There are many hypotheses.
From reincarnation to Valhalla -- then on to heaven. There
have been many proposed solutions. Yet no one fully
understands death. In Shapiro's poem "Auto Wreck," he
illustrates the irrationality of life for it can be taken
away at any given time for no rational reason.
Shapiro uses metaphors to emphasize the fantasy-like and
wild setting of the auto wreck. The following is an excerpt
taken from "Auto Wreck":
"And down the dark one ruby flare
Pulsing out red light like an artery."
This statement contrasts the red light emitted from an
ambulance to the blood of an artery. The idea that a light
is spurted out like blood is abstract and bizarre. In
addition to that metaphor, Shapiro writes:
"One hangs lanterns on the wrecks that cling
Emptying husks of locusts, to iron poles."
This rhythmical sentence paints a picture of locusts,
grass, hopper like creatures, clinging to a luscious green
jungle of grass. Yet symbolically this jungle is the
twisted, black, and crisp auto wreck. This depiction of the
auto wreck is extravag ant and almost unreal. Using
metaphors, Shapiro portrays the fantasy-like auto wreck in
which wildness is indispensable.
In addition to Shapiro's use of metaphorical phrases, he
emphasizes the lack of comprehension of the on-lookers as a
result of death's inconsistency with logic. Shapiro
directly tells the reader, "We are deranged." The word "we"
symbolizes u s, as a whole institution or better yet --
society. He goes on further to say, "Our throats were tight
as tourniquets." By this he means that the on-lookers were
stopped, almost speechless, as they gazed upon the wreckage
contemplating the reason b ehind death. Finally, Shapiro
"We speak through sickly smiles and warn
With the stubborn saw of common sense."
What the writer is getting through is that the on-lookers
attempted to rationalize the accident with their common
sense. But their "common sense," or their logical reasoning
ability, was being sawed upon as they continued to puzzle
over death. Once again, the old age question of "What is
the meaning of death?" was tackled at the scene of the auto
Finally, Shapiro asks rhetorical questions which could
never be answered by logical means. One question which
Shapiro asks is "Who shall die [next]?" This question could
never be answered for death strikes without cause but
randomness. The second question Shapiro asks is "Who is
innocent?" No one knows who is innocent. The driver might
have been suicidal. Maybe he might not have. Who knows, for
this is death that is being discussed. These hard questions
could not be reasoned with deductively. Only an irrational
source such as an all-supreme and omniscient being could
answer these questions.
In death, there exists strictly irrational causes for the
loss of life. Death is an eccentric jungle whose twisted,
convoluted, and entangled vines represent the causes of
death which can not be mapped out mathematically, but can
be mapped o ut by the deranged explorer or sole creator of
that jungle, both of whom are irrational persons in
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