In A Sunset of the City, Gwendolyn Brooks portrays the deceptiveness of physical appearances. What I find striking about the poem is the way Brooks uses irony to comment on the emptiness of the speaker’s life, more so during a season (summer) that promises/symbolizes the celebration of life. The speaker says that she is not deceived that it’s summer simply because the birds sing and the sun rises, because her life lacks the satisfaction and fulfillment she desires. Instead of the warmth of summer, feels that “It is a real chill out,” and that’s the only genuine thing she could say of this summer (6-7). In this regard, the poem’s title is a reference to the fizzling out of love in the speaker’s life, like the fizzling out of light at sunset. She attributes this to the people in her life-her daughters and sons- who have ignored her like dolls in the house. In addition, her relationship with her husband is lukewarm since he shows her only politeness, and not the love and companionship she longs for. The love of her life (of her children and husband is gone), which she emphasizes when she says:
It is summer-gone that I see, it is summer-gone.
The sweet flowers in-drying and dying down,
The grasses forgetting their blaze and consenting to brown (10-12).
Her love has died, like sweet flowers drying down, and the grass that’s going brown (drying up).
This poem echoes similar thematic concerns as those of most writers we have covered so far, like Robert Lowell in To Speak of Woe That Is in Marriage, T. S Elliot in The Waste Land and Raymond Carver in the Cathedral. The speaker in Lowell’s poem has lost her husband’s love to prostitutes, just as the speaker in Brooks’ poem has lost hers to his lovers. The poem’s similarity to Carver’s short story the Cathedral and Elliot’s The Waste Land relates to their portrayal of physical appearances, which are not only deceptive, but contrasts with the character’s experiences. In the Cathedral, the main character’s worldview is deceptive, although he is not blind like his friend. Similarly, the coming of spring in The Waste Land brings death instead of new life, in the same way that summer fails to bring happiness in Brooks’ A Sunset of the City.
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