The Curse of the Orange Tree and the Artist

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The Curse of the Orange Tree and the Artist

"In a Green Night" by Derek Walcott is a poem about the conflicting feelings of life. "In a Green Night" focuses on the ever-present threat of death, and how our lives revolve around the inevitability of death. Through metaphors, paradoxes, and repetition, Walcott exemplifies the hopelessness and glory that occur when an artist realizes that, in his quest for creating the perfect piece of art, he is ultimately growing closer to death--just as an orange tree grows closer to death as it produces its magnificent fruit.

The key to "In a Green Night" lies in the metaphor that Walcott uses; human thought and creativity are compared to an aging orange tree. An orange tree produces oranges just like an artist produces art. Both living things are in immediate danger of losing their lives without producing something meaningful. An orange tree's life can be short-lived, with few opportunities to produce its beloved fruit. An artist's life may follow this same road; the artist may have only a very short time to produce his own masterpiece. As the orange tree and the artist come into the prime of their life, they also begin to die. Walcott uses this metaphor beautifully, without ever actually comparing the two objects directly.

The second device that Walcott uses in "In a Green Night" is the paradox. A paradox is a statement that first seems to be contradictory or absurd, but it turns out to make perfect sense. The first place that Walcott uses a paradox is in the title of the poem. "In a Green Night" appears to contradict itself. Nights are usually described as "dark," or "obscure," or oftentimes they even symbolize death. By using the word "green" Walcott makes a very bold stat...

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...ted fables now/That her last season's summer height/Bends from each overburdened bough" (1-4). A fable is a short narrative that exemplifies a moral principle of human behavior. The tree tells a fable, using her overburdened boughs to represent how producing art can be a burden for an artist. These first lines introduce the fable, while the final lines tell the moral of the story--creating the ultimate paradox. The second line of the stanza says: "Proclaims that fable perfect now" (30). The tree shows its connection with humans perfectly through its sad story of its doomed life.

"In a Green Night" by Derek Walcott is a poem that looks simple on the outside. Through metaphors, paradoxes, and repetition the poem tells a fable. The poem tells the fable of an artist burdened with his ability to think and create which becomes both his doom and his glory.

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