Thursday, December 9, 2010

Poetry Analysis

The poem, “Dear John Wayne” by Louise Erdrich, takes place both at a drive-in movie theater and in a John Wayne movie that involves fighting and Indians. The title of the poem “Dear John Wayne” obviously shows that the poem would involve John Wayne in some way. It also might have to do with the fact that he was in western movies, and in western movies there are usually Indians. I think that this poem is about how the settlers and cowboys “stole” the land in the western part of the United States from the Native Americans. One of the main characters is John Wayne. He appears to be one of the “good guys” in the movie. Another group of main characters are the Native Americans that appear in the movie. They still can be considered main characters even though they are not directly mentioned, they are implied. The author of this poetry analysis thinks that the speaker(s) in this poem are the Native Americans that are in the movie.
            In the first stanza (lines one through five), it takes place at a drive-in movie theater. The time period might be around 1970s. The second stanza (lines six through ten) appears to be a scene of a person on the lookout for any signs of Native Americans, this person could be John Wayne, but the author of this poetry analysis thinks that he would have taken a more important role in the movie. Then the poem goes on to talk about who those Native Americans might be “Sioux or some other Plains bunch” (Erdrich 1653). Then it goes on and mentions “ICBM missiles” (Erdrich1653). Why would there be mention of these missiles? The author of this poetry analysis thinks that it could have been because the missiles might have been stored on the Native American’s land. In the third stanza (lines eleven through sixteen), a battle is taking place. From the way it is written, it appears that not only could it be a scene in the movie, but also a scene in a real battle. Then in the last line of the third stanza, it appears to go back to the present because “the history that brought us all here together: this wide screen beneath the sign of the bear” (Erdrich 1653). The bear is a Native American symbol that is often used. In the fourth stanza (lines seventeen through twenty-three) it appears to be back in the present. At the end of the stanza John Wayne says “It is not over, this fight, not as long as you resist…Everything we see belongs to us” (Erdrich 1654). This was a common belief among the settlers since they put a price on land, but Native Americans did not. In the fifth stanza (lines twenty-four through twenty-nine), the movie finishes, but in the last bit of the movie someone says “The eye sees a lot, John, but the heart is so blind…Death makes us owners of nothing” (Erdrich 1654). The last part of the quote is very important because back in the time of the settlers, they thought that if they killed a Native American that they then owned the land. This is not so because the land does not belong to just one person, it belongs to everybody. In the sixth stanza (lines thirty through thirty-five), the movie has ended. The people “are back in our own skins” (Erdrich 1654). This could mean that the movie goers figuratively were out of their bodies during the movie. In the last stanza (lines thirty-six through forty), John Wayne says “Come on, boys, we got them where we want them, drunk, running. They’ll give us what we want, what we need” (Erdrich 1654). This goes along with the last two lines that say “Even his disease was the idea of taking everything…Those cells, burning, doubling, splitting out of their skins” (Erdrich 1654). This is the description of what John Wayne died from, cancer.
            This poem told multiple stories: a story of a night at a drive in movie theater in which a John Wayne movie was playing, and a story about the battles that happened over the land that the Native Americans lived on. The author of this poetry analysis thought that it was ironic when at the very end John Wayne’s death was mentioned. The reader(s) of this poem can take away from the text is the fact that the land does not belong to anybody. People’s blood should not be spilled over land disputes. Also that when you take away something from somebody, then somebody will take something from you.   


  1. The author of this comment about this poetry analysis thinks the author of this poetry analysis tried very hard not to use the word "I" in his/her essay. The author of this comment wishes to say "good job" to the author of this analysis.

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