By John Updike

The days are short,
The sun a spark,
Hung thin between
The dark and dark.

Fat snowy footsteps
Track the floor.
Milk bottles burst
Outside the door.

The river is
A frozen place
Held still beneath
The trees of lace.

The sky is low.
The wind is gray.
The radiator
Purrs all day.

Summary of January

  • Popularity of “January”: “January” by John Updike, a popular American poet, writer, critic, and fiction writer, is a very good piece about winter. The poem first appeared in his collection, A Child’s Calendar, which hit the markets in 1965. The poem is popular not only for its simple wording but also for its simple theme and interesting activities that go on in the winter season.
  • January” As a Representative of Winter Activities: The poet opens the poem with quick facts about the winter season. He tells that the days become short, the sun becomes just a spark, and as thin as a line hung between two dark places or spaces. When the people walk on the ground, they leave their footprints on the snow. Even the milk bottles freeze and burst open in this frosty weather. The river, too, freezes and trees seem to have icicles hanging with them. It seems that the sky has come down, while the wind becomes grey. Amid all these wintery activities, the radiator continues purring to emit heat for the inmates.
  • Major Themes in “January”: Activities of the winter season, frosty weather, and requirement of heating apparatus are three major themes of the poem. John Updike starts the poem with the thematic strand of short facts such as the days, sun, and snowy footprints. He, then, widens his canvas of thoughts to rivers, trees, and sky to demonstrate the frosty quality of the winter weather to arrive at the conclusion that radiators continue purring to make homes hot or make vehicles start easily.

Analysis of Literary Devices Used In “January”

literary devices bring beauty and spice to poetic pieces. John Updike has also used some literary devices for this purpose in this poem whose analysis is as follows.

  1. Assonance: Assonance is the repetition of vowel sounds in the same line such as the sound of /a/ in “The dark and dark”.
  2. Alliteration: The poem shows the use of alliteration in the shape of initial consonant sounds of the neighboring words such as the sound of /b/ in “bottles burst.”
  3. Consonance: Consonance is the repetition of consonant sounds in the same line such as the sound of /d/ and /r/ in “The dark and dark” and the sound of /l/ and /s/ in “Milk bottles burst.”
  4. Enjambment: It is defined as a thought in verse that does not come to an end at a line break; rather, it rolls over to the next line. For example;

The river is
A frozen place
Held still beneath
The trees of lace.

  1. Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. John Updike has used imagery in this poem such as “Hung thing between / The dark and dark”, “Fat snowy footsteps”, and “Milk bottles burst.”
  2. Metaphor: It is a figure of speech in which an implied comparison is made between the objects that are different in nature. The poet has used metaphors such as the sun shown as a spark and milk as gunpowder.
  3. Symbolism: Symbolism is using symbols to signify ideas and qualities, giving them symbolic meanings that are different from literal meanings. The poem shows the use of symbols of footsteps, floor, and door to show the domestic situation.

Analysis of Poetic Devices Used in “January”

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. Diction and Tone: The poem shows the use of figurative language with short sentences. The tone is pleasant and jolly.
  2. Rhyme Scheme: The poem follows the ABCB rhyme scheme in all of its four stanzas.
  3. Stanza: A stanza is a poetic form of some lines. There are four stanzas with each having four verses.

Quotes to be Used

These lines from “January” are appropriate to use when showing the pleasant atmosphere of the winter season.

The Sky is low.
The wind is gray
The radiator
Purrs all day.