Shapiro’s “Auto Wreck”: InterpretationPhilosophers 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 dea th. 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
“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 writes:
“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 wreck.
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 dealt with. 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 themselves.