Each person possesses a character flaw, which affects our communication process with other people. It is because of this fact that McDaniel poem manages to attract every type of possible audience to its’ reading and does not exclude anybody. The Quiet World is a portray of a fictional place where its’ government has decided to allocate exactly one hundred and sixty-seven words to each citizen in a bid “to get people to look into each other’s eyes more”(1/2). The speaker is a member of this utopian state and reflects on this recent policy through a conversation with his long distance lover.
The poems’ simplicity and excellent portrayal of humanity through a “quiet world” can touch eve the coldest of hearts. When looking at the title The Quiet World, I immediately imagine the literal meaning of it – a world where it is quiet. I imagine a world where nobody speaks and no sounds are heard. I believe the title is quite significant to the rest of the poem because it helps us understand more of the message the author is trying to portray, which is ultimately the flaw in modern human interaction.
The poet imagines a world where it is quiet and people exchange interaction that is either hysterical or compressed to a certain word limit. The poem is structured in four stanzas each almost equal length. This is not a long poem, which I believe beautifully adds to the depiction of the poets’ message of using less words but saying more with them. There is no clear rhyming scheme to the poem, it is written in free verse and the language is simple. The poem begins with the introduction of a fictional place (most probably a country), in which the government has created a new law for its citizens to follow.
The law is a clear allocation of exactly 167 words to be used by each person per day. It is stated also that this law has been enforced due to the government’s thorough analysis of daily human interaction, which to them seems inadequate and inefficient: “In an effort to get people to look into each other’s eyes more, and also to appease the mutes.. “(113). It becomes obvious that this country’s government has noticed that people do not look into each other’s eyes enough and the mutes are not being appeased enough.
The mutes are perhaps people who do not speak so often, or at all (most likely belonging to the minority) and the government has understood that these people can teach a lesson or two to the other tizzies and would like to appease them through this law. The speaker of the poem is introduced in the second stanza with the words “When the phone rings, I put it to my ear.. “(7). The speaker is describing a situation in which he is outside and his phone rings. He picks the phone up without saying hello.
This situation can be dubbed as absurd, because why would someone pick up their phone if they are not going to talk with it. However, I believe McDaniel is trying to portray a situation where people are still able to communicate without using words specifically. The beaker then moves to a restaurant where he picks up a chicken noodle soup and gets his want across to the staff by simply pointing at it. The stanza ends with the line “l am adjusting well to the new way'(10), showing that according to the speaker the new law is working fine for him and he is able to live a normal life.
However, with the entrance into the third stanza we begin to question whether the speaker naturally only acted this way towards the phone call and the staff in the restaurant, without using any words or he was actually saving them for his lover. The second reason is ore likely to be true, due to his statement in the next verse “l call my long distance lover, proudly say I only used fifty-nine today. I saved the rest for you”(11/13). Here, the second character is introduced in the poem – the long distance lover.
It becomes obvious that the speaker, who is most probably a man, is in a long distance relationship with a woman and the way communicate is via phone call. The speaker tells his lover proudly he has only used fifty-nine words today and has saved the rest for her. This shows the speaker’s devotion towards his lover because he has chosen to use most of his words on her. As we move onto the fourth and final stanza, we understand more about the lover, who sits quietly on the other end of the line without saying a word.
This abrupt and even surprising reaction indicates the passivity and lesser engagement of the woman who has used up her allocated words on someone else. Despite this response, the speaker decides to still spend the rest of his words on his lover and slowly whispers “l love you” thirty-two and a third times, which is the amount that is left for him to say, that will add up to the allocated one hundred and sixty-seven. It is interesting how the poet chooses only to say those here words, also known as the most powerful words a human being can say to someone, but also known as some of the most meaningless words out there.
People often tell each other they love the other person, but how many of these people actually mean it? With the strict allocation of a certain amount of words, the speaker must choose wisely what to tell to his significant other. Suddenly in this new world, words acquire meaning and the speaker decides to spend the time left with what is most important in life – love. The three words “l love you” if used correctly, say everything you would ever want to say to someone. People waste so much of their words on useless topics when all they need to say sometimes, is simply “l love you”.
After the speaker’s words have run out, the lovers sit in silence and listen to each other breathe. This is the only thing left for them to do. However, something beautiful is portrayed here by the author, in using something as natural and mundane as breathing. We almost never pay attention to a person’s breath, since we take it for granted and do not believe it to be something special. In the poem, listening to each other’s breath is vital to their relationship, due to the lover’s incapability of doing anything else.
Although simple, this is still an activity shared between the two and brings them closer. It also gives them each a chance to listen to one another without overshadowing the other with speech. It is embedded in our human nature to talk and to want other people to listen to us. We are rarely good listeners and need to self-discipline ourselves to be so. The Quiet World fully expresses this idea of humans being unable to listen to each other and with the last stanza, depicts how the word limit set to people is helping them listen.
What I found stood out for me in this poem is its simplicity in style and language. Firstly, no concrete names are given to the characters of the poem I. E. The speaker and his lover. I believe this is done so anybody reading can relate to it and use the poem to understand his life more. Secondly, there is only one other person mentioned by the speaker other than himself. Even though he has encountered people on the telephone and in the restaurant earlier, he does not mention them at all specifically, which shows the speaker’s devotion and love for his lover even more.
I believe the reason behind the simplicity of language used in this poem, is due to the fact the poet has also carefully hoses his words and has only mentioned the important details of the story. McDaniel spends little time describing the governments’ reason for allocating a word limit or the speakers’ daily routines, such as picking up food. What matters most is a person, and not Just any person – his lover. This is why I believe most of the words used in this poem are directed towards the woman.
Looking at The Quiet World from a literal sense, its’ projection and meaning are pretty straightforward. The poem describes a made up state in which people have only one hundred and sixty- even words to use per day and the speaker decides to use most of his on his long distance lover. In reality, and what is called a metaphoric sense, the poem says so much more than that and hits the most vulnerable and aching spots of our heart. As I mentioned in the beginning, one of modern man’s biggest problem today is communication and interaction with other people.
This has been especially highlighted in recent years due to the mass appearance of media, social networking and technological devices in general. People have become distance and unaware of others and their feelings, and have lost the art of communication. We also don’t think about what we say and do not allocate meaning to our words. McDaniel poem offers a solution to this problem as he invents a place where people have to think and choose their words wisely. When a person has only one hundred and sixty-seven words to use per day, he will definitely spend most of his day carefully thinking to whom he must give these words.
One begins to think also what the content and message of these words must be. You are naturally going to want to say the most vital and meaningful words you can think of. This automatically leads me to the pinion that people would be more kind and respectful to each other. However, McDaniel includes an interesting twist to the plot of the story with the woman who has used up all her words and has left none for her lover. This shows how even with the word limit law, people have not learned to wisely spend their words.
The message could be either that the woman does not have such good self-control as the man or her spending of her words show how she truly feels about her lover. I believe to think it could be a combination of the two, but also believe the poet’s message is actually something different. Through the poets’ creation of a quiet world, in which people are allocated a certain number of words per day, we begin to hear and understand more about human nature and relationships that we ever would in a busy and noisy place.
The “mutes” the poet mentions in the first stanza represent people who have learned to control their tongues and speak only when needed to. Perhaps the speaker is one of them, thus possessing the amazing ability to control the words that come out of his mouth, whereas his lover represents the average person. The problem being presented by the poet is not necessarily people’s distance ND cold attitude towards others so much, as it is the inability to project our thoughts and feelings onto them.