The Importance of Repetition Technique and its Meaning in The Emperor of Ice Cream by Wallace Stevens

December 10, 2020 by Essay Writer

In The Emperor of Ice Cream, Wallace Stevens uses form, imagery, and repetition to portray a theme of capturing the moment. His form, informal free-verse is relaxed. He uses the imagery of the women in their everyday dress, and the boys with flowers in newspaper to show a nonchalant attitude towards the event taking place. He uses the repetition of the refrain to give it emphasis and get his message, the theme, across.

Stevens uses repetition of the refrain “The only emperor is the emperor of ice cream” to strengthen the theme of the poem, which is seize the moment. The ice cream itself, “kitchen cups [of] concupiscent curds” is a metaphor for life’s pleasures. Ice cream, though delicious and desirable, melts. Just like life, it is fleeting. The emperor can represent the reader, or anyone who is taking control of their own lives. Emperors are authority figures. The emperor of ice cream would be someone who decides how to seize the moment, controls his own pleasure, and doesn’t answer to anyone. Stevens repeats this seemingly nonsense phrase in a poem that revolves around a woman’s wake. By repeating the phrase, Stevens puts emphasis on it and justifies the actions of the characters in the poems. The “wenches” in their everyday dresses and the “boys” with flowers in newspapers are seizing the moment by using the wake as an occasion to socialize. Wallace shows this by ending each stanza with the theme.

Through form, imagery, and repetition, Stevens shows the reader that the only way to live is by living life to the fullest and taking every opportunity to have fun and get the most out of life before the reader ends up like the woman at her own wake.

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