Abandoned Farmhouse

Abandoned Farmhouse

by Ted Kooser

He was a big man, says the size of his shoes
on a pile of broken dishes by the house;
a tall man too, says the length of the bed
in an upstairs room; and a good, God-fearing man,
says the Bible with a broken back
on the floor below the window, dusty with sun;
but not a man for farming, say the fields
cluttered with boulders and the leaky barn.

A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall
papered with lilacs and the kitchen shelves
covered with oilcloth, and they had a child,
says the sandbox made from a tractor tire.
Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves
and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole.
And the winters cold, say the rags in the window frames.
It was lonely here, says the narrow country road.

Something went wrong, says the empty house
in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the fields
say he was not a farmer; the still-sealed jars
in the cellar say she left in a nervous haste.
And the child? Its toys are strewn in the yard
like branches after a storm—a rubber cow,
a rusty tractor with a broken plow,
a doll in overalls. Something went wrong, they say.

Summary of Abandoned Farmhouse

  • Popularity of “Abandoned Farmhouse”: This poem was written by Ted Kooser, a great American poet. ‘Abandoned Farmhouse’ is one of the poems about mystery, tragedy, and sorrow. It was first published in 1980 in his collection, Sure Signs: New and Selected Poems. The poem speaks about a farmhouse where a poor family had lived. The speaker observes the objects in the abandoned house and guesses about the previous owner’s life and habits.
  • “Abandoned Farmhouse” As a Representative of Sorrow: This poem is about a melancholic, old and abandoned farmhouse. The house is empty and quiet, and the speaker assumes that the farmer’s family was poor. The poem begins with the description of the man, his big-sized shoes, and bed, giving a clue about his physical trait. He was a tall man, and his worn-out Bible proves his spirituality. The boulders cluttering the field outside reflect that he tried to do farm the land but didn’t succeed.
    As the poem progresses, the speaker talks about more remains, such as; decoration on the bedroom walls, the curtains, and the kitchen shelves reflecting the presence of a lady and the way she decorated the house. The sandbox and toys suggest that they had a child too. The speaker also notices preserved food and rags in the window frame indicate that they lived in poverty. He wonders if something terrible might have happened to them. Perhaps, the place was struck with war, and the family had to escape to be safe.
  • Major Themes in “Abandoned Farmhouse”: Sorrow, poverty, and abandonment are the major themes of this poem. The speaker provides descriptive details of lifeless objects scattered all around the house and guesses the life of people who had lived there. It is through the forgotten things we can guess about the living standards of the former occupants. The scattered objects, preserved food, and barren land also suggest that they left their house in a hurry a long time ago. They might have faced a natural calamity or war.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used in “Abandoned Farmhouse”:

Literary devices are tools the writers use to present their idea, feelings, and emotions to make their words appealing to the readers. Ted Kooser has used some literary devices in this poem to make it appealing. The analysis of some of the literary devices used in this poem has been listed below.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line. For example, the sound of /i/ in “A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall” and the sound of /o/ in “a doll in overalls. Something went wrong, they say.”
  2. Alliteration: Alliteration is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line in quick succession. For example, such as the sound of /b/ in “says the Bible with a broken back” and the sound of /t/ in “says the sandbox made from a tractor tire”.
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line. For example, the sound /s/ in “Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves”.
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a verse that does not come to an end at a line break. Instead, it continues to the next line. For example,

“Something went wrong, says the empty house
in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the fields
say he was not a farmer; the still-sealed jars
in the cellar say she left in a nervous haste.”

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example, “in the weed-choked yard. Stones in the fields”, “He was a big man, says the size of his shoes”, and “says the sandbox made from a tractor tire.”
  2. Personification: Personification is to give human qualities to inanimate objects. For example, “He was a big man, says the size of his shoes”, “A woman lived with him, says the bedroom wall” and “Something went wrong, says the empty house.”
  3. Simile: It is a device used to compare a person or an object with something else to make the meanings clear to the readers. For example, toys are compared to branches in the last stanza.

And the child? Its toys are strewn in the yard
like branches after a storm—a rubber cow.”

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “Abandoned Farmhouse”:

Poetic and literary devices are the same, but a few are used only in poetry. Here is the analysis of some of the poetic devices used in this poem.

  1. Free Verse: Free verse is a type of poetry that does not contain patterns of rhyme or meter. This is a free-verse poem with no strict rhyme or meter.
  2. Repetition: There is a repetition of the verse “Something went wrong” which has created a musical quality in the poem.
  3. Refrain: The lines that are repeated at some distance in the poems are called refrain. The verse, “Something went wrong” is repeated with the same words, and has become a refrain.
  4. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are three stanzas in this poem, with each having eight verses.

Quotes to be Used

The lines stated below are useful while describing the poor and miserable state of a family.

“Money was scarce, say the jars of plum preserves
and canned tomatoes sealed in the cellar hole.
And the winters cold, say the rags in the window frames.
It was lonely here, says the narrow country road.”

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