The Illustration of the Spanish Civil War in Pablo Neruda’s Poem I’m Explaining a Few Things

May 14, 2021 by Essay Writer

Pablo Neruda’s Narration of The Spanish Civil War

Pablo Neruda is a famous Latin American poet that wrote throughout the early twentieth century. Neruda focused many of his works on topics that were popular in both Latin American and Spanish cultures, which were usually focused on controversy and conflicts. Neruda used his work as a means of explaining all of the things that the people were suffering through and was able to create a mass exposure due to his creative way of describing the scenes. For example, one of his most popular works, “I’m Explaining A Few Things” serves as a narration of a man who is living in Spain during the period of the Spanish Civil War. The poem begins with stanzas explaining life before the war, and how the whole city was changed by the violence and destruction that occurred during the battle. By exposing the two different spectrums of the city, Neruda uses his artistic abilities to illustrate the real life issues that the country and the people of Spain had to go through during the period of the war.

Neruda begins his poem by describing Spain before the conflict broke out. He opens the poem with a couple of questions, asking, “where are the lilacs? And the poppy-petalled metaphysics? And the rain repeadedly spatteing its words and drilling them full of apertures and birds?” (Neruda, 1-5). By using these questions, Neruda is depicting how the land of Spain is supposed to be one filled with beauty and nature, however one would not be able to tell that by looking at the land after the battle. He lists off many of the positive qualities of Spain, and then suddenly says, “And one morning all that was burning” (Neruda, 35). With lines such as this one, Neruda begins to explain how the scenes of the battle began to destroy the city. All of the beautiful things that he once loved about the land was no engulfed in flames and filled with bandits and soldiers murdering innocent people in the streets. Neruda states, “Face to face with you I have seen the blood of Spain tower like a tide to drown you in one wave of pride and knives”(Neruda, 51-54). This image provides a mental image of how horrific the results of the war was, and how terribly it impacted Spain and its entire population. Neruda concludes his poem with the lines, “And you will ask: why doesn’t his poetry speak of dreams and leaves and the great volcanoes of his native land? Come and see the blood in the streets” (Neruda, 66-70). By concluding his writing with these lines, Neruda begins to comment on how his writing isn’t going to be illustrating all of the simple beauty that the world possesses; he uses his poetry to illustrate the issues of the his culture and society.

Neruda’s writing tends to have a similar topic of anger and resistance towards figures of power, and he often avoids writing about the positive aspects of life. By focusing on the more realistic and controversial subjects of Latin American cultures, he brings man key issues to light that people are often times ignoring. Rafik Al Massoudi, a writer for The International Journal of Literary Humanities, discusses Neruda’s realism and resistance in his article that is entitled “The Impure Identity in Neruda’s Poetry: Plural Identities.” Al Massoudi discusses how Neruda has an identity in poetry that is very rare among modern poets, in which he is covering real issues with a strong passion for the subject. He claims, “Such identity is a hybrid in such a way that it resists the pure, politically constructed identity that is imposed by power. It is a kind of extraordinary identity that transcends the normal, submissive one” (Al Massoudi). This line from the author discusses how Neruda’s powerful and rebellious identity that he forms within his work is both rare and influential. His overall tone and subject matter is rather important to his Latin American culture and helps expose the difficulties that all of these people are fighting through.

Mike Gonzales, a journalist for The Guardian, wrote an article that described the life of Pablo Neruda, and how his works were influenced by the culture around him. He explains how Neruda’s politics are often found “in his passionate, emotional responses to events that changed his own life” (Gonzales), which is very much so the case for “I’m Explaining A Few Things”. In the poem, Neruda provides graphic images of the violence and aftermath that the Spanish Civil War created, and it is clear to see that these events had a traumatic impact on him. By witnessing his whole town burning, seeing everything that he grew up with engulfed in flames and covered in blood, Neruda was likely traumatized by this event and illustrated his suffering through his work. Gonzales notes this tragedy as a turning point in Neruda’s work and claims “The turning point came in Spain, when the joy he felt in the company of Lorca and Bañuel and others in Madrid was destroyed by Franco’s coup in July 1936” (Gonzales). Neruda would use this so-called “turning point” of his career to demonstrate the pain and suffering of all of the Spanish people to his readers.

Neruda’s works demonstrated extraordinary relevance to the conditions of the people of Spain and Latin America, due to the fact that his writing was meant to be expository of these terrible circumstances. In “I’m Explaining A Few Things”, Neruda perfectly illustrates how the Spanish society as a whole was greatly impacted and harmed by the events of the Spanish Civil War, and he used his writing to portray this to mass populations. His poetry is not simplistic and common, like many other modern poets who simply write about the beauty of the world, but it served as a means of social commentary to express his concern about the well-being of his own people. Neruda was influenced so greatly by these events that he tried to begin a political career of his own to try to change the state of the world and to help the people of Spain and Latin America, however he was not successful. Neruda’s works have greatly served as a means to expose Latin American issues as well as to help solve the problems that his beloved society was facing.

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