Diction in Disillusionment of Ten O' Clock

Diction in Disillusionment of Ten O' Clock

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Diction in Disillusionment of Ten O' Clock         

 What do you dream about? Do you dream of exciting adventures and think of colorful worlds? Wallace Stevens claims that sailors are the ones scattered throughout society who dream of these things. The author implies that this is his message through denotation, connotation, and his use of negative versus positive diction.


The denotation in Stevens' poem displays his weariness of society's dull approach to life. When he begins talking about how, The houses are haunted by white night-gowns. None are green, or purple with green rings, he's complaining about how people in society dream of normal un-imaginative things. But, to dream of baboons and periwinkles, is what we should strive to dream of. These things are what the drifters, like a sailor, dream of. He uses the sailor image to convey the individual in society who doesn't live the normal life. He could have replaced this image with a number of other names referring to a non-traditional lifestyle, but only chose the sailor to represent all of those individual people scattered throughout the crowd who, under all the stereotypes, really are full of great ideas and hold what would contribute a great deal to the normal, white night-gowns, image of society.


Throughout Stevens' poem, he uses connotation to get his point across to the reader. When he speaks of people, With socks of lace and beaded ceintures, he is describing the physical appearance of normal, dull, people of society who are the ones who dream of boring, black and white images. He contrasts this with the sailor's shabby appearance, drunk and asleep in his boots, but also dreaming of catching, tigers in red weather. This contrast sends his message with a strong, clear impression to the reader. He covers his opinion on the outward and inward appearance of both roles in society, proving his point that the outcast members of a community are the ones who actually are living the colorful, enriched lifestyle.


By using both negative and positive words, Stevens is able to make the distinction between the two conflicting roles in society once again. When the author explains how, none of them [the ordinary people in society] are strange, with socks of lace and beaded ceintures, he is using the word strange as a negative way to describe the conforming people in the world.

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This word, strange, usually refers to a negative characteristic. Stevens reverses this meaning an molds it into a positive word to describe the non-conformists. When he changes the negative word into a positive word, the poem's message is portrayed in a more persuasive manner.

Disillusionment of Ten O' Clock is a great example of how diction can enhance the meaning of a poem. Stevens shows his high level of skill when arranging words in a poem to his advantage.


The houses are haunted

by white night-gowns.

None are green,

Or purple with green rings,

Or green with yellow rings,

Or yellow with blue rings.

None of them are strange,

With socks of lace



And beaded ceintures

People are not going

To dream of baboons and periwinkles,

Only, here and there, an old sailor,

Drunk and asleep in his boots,

Catches tigers

In red weather.
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