Sub-urban Life Compared as Seen by Louis Simpson and John Ciardi By Khurshid Alam
Doom on the dismal space of the middle class world which is encumbered with social malice, poverty, apathy, and narrow lanes has drawn one of the great twentieth century American poets Louis Simpson to write the poem “In the Suburbs”. This six-line poem which appeared in At the End of the Road (1963) and which won Simpson the Pulitzer Prize in 1964 is more than a verse. It is an epitome of the abjure condition of the middle class. Simpson is successful in “chronicling the mundane lives of ordinary” people which have no end. He criticizes the materialistic America society where every one is not suitable.
Though Simpson was born in a lavish family himself his heart melts to feel the heat the middle twentieth century American society has been burning in. He lived in the suburbs of Kingston, Jamaica in West Indies where he was born and hence he saw the suburban people from very close range. He visualized the poor do not have the clear road for a life of progress as Walt Whitman had once visioned. He expresses his dismal in clear words. “What is next?”
Simpson sees many fighting for their space but failing equally as many. He has no hope for the people: life if futile. He even intensifies his tone by asserting his gloom by saying that many before have met no concrete result.
For him the middle class is another sort of prison in which every one suffocates but none is successful in escaping the unlimited timidity; howsoever any one may try.
John Ciardi has seconded the view of Simpson that the pathetic condition of middle class is chronic in nature in his poem with similar title “Suburban” appearing in the Selected Poems which is in a dialogue format between the poet and Mrs Friar. Ciardi showcases the “petunias” condition of the people where every one lives on “borrowed” things. The Americans often pride themselves on their “classless” society but this has met a dead-end when we come to realize the society closely.
Ciardi draws a parallel in psychoanalysis to Simpson’s last line when both say all the poor live in a faint hope of some kind of resurrection that’s but a dream: “All Hunger's tribesmen praise God as a feast,” (Feasts: Lives of X). Ciardi even extends Simpson’s idea by adding that the “suburbs shall give up their dead”.