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The Emperor of Ice-Cream Summary & Analysis
by Wallace Stevens

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"The Emperor of Ice-Cream" is one of the most well-known poems by American Modernist poet Wallace Stevens. The poem appears in Stevens's widely influential debut collection, Harmonium, which was published in 1923. The meaning of the poem is notoriously ambiguous, but its two equal-length stanzas present clear enough scenarios. An old woman has died, and in the first stanza the speaker issues instructions to others for the funeral or wake. In the second stanza, the speaker appears to be in a quieter room with the woman's cold, dead body. Here, the speaker seems to issue a mysterious plea for reality to be stripped of illusory appearances. Readers have often interpreted the poem as showing the ultimate triumph of life over the silence of death. This isn't necessarily some heroic victory, but rather a wider point about the nature of experience.

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