“The Writer” Analysis

An Analysis in the poem “The Writer” by Richard Wilbur.

In “The Writer” by Richard Wilbur, the subject is a father-daughter relationship. The theme is about the daughter’s life journey and how the father can only point her in the right direction, but can’t make her decisions for her. Wilbur uses figurative language and images to enhance this poem.

In the poem, the narrator is the father of a girl typing a story. As the father stands outside the shut door of his daughter’s room, listening to her type, he wishes her luck on her journey. Then the daughter suddenly pauses and stops typing; there seems to be a stillness in the house. The father feels the stillness is a rejection of his wish for his daughter’s luck. The daughter starts typing again, only to stop again seconds later. At this point, the narrator remembers how a bird was trapped in the same room in which his daughter is typing in. The father opened a window for the bird to fly to freedom, but had to take himself and his daughter out of the room to keep from frightening the bird. After attempting to get through the right window but striking closed windows, the bird finally finds his way through the right window and flies away.

Richard Wilbur relies heavily on figurative language in three extended metaphors to reveal the theme of the poem. The first extended metaphor is the daughter’s life being compared to a ship’s voyage. Examples of this metaphor are the daughter’s life struggles being compared to “great cargo, and some of it heavy,” (line 8). Also, the father wishes his daughter a “lucky passage” (9), like wishes sent to passengers on a ship about to set sail. These expressions show how a journey at sea is like the journey through life. Another extended metaphor is when the daughter is writing a story. “Like a chain hauled over a gunwale” (6) refers to the sound of the daughter typing, but also relates to a ship about to set sail. The daughter’s sounds of typing represents her about to leave, because the ship would be lifting it’s anchor to set off. By the end of the poem, it’s apparent that she’s writing her own life story, which is an extended metaphor since the poem is titled “The Writer.” Also, the continuous pausing of the daughter’s typing shows that she has struggles and stopping points in her life, just like she’s having struggles writing some parts of the story. The last extended metaphor is the father remembering the starling and comparing it to his daughter. The father could only open the window for the bird and step away as he could only lead his child to the right path and hope she finds her way.

Another important element Wilbur uses is imagery. The first image that is apparent is the “window tossed with linden,” (line 2) which shows trees against the window, looking like the tossing waves of the sea. The waves are similar to the ups and downs of the daughter’s life journey. The next image is the shut door between the father and the daughter typing. The father can’t barge in the room and write the story for his daughter; she has to do it herself. The father also feels shut out of his daughter’s life. The strongest images in the whole poem are those of the starling. The bird tries over and over again to get through the open window, like the daughter trying to get through life. The open window is like one of the many opportunities in the world.

Wilbur tells the theme connecting figurative language and imagery in a way that makes everything fit together perfectly. The father who shows his daughter the right path can only hope for the best as the daughter makes her own decisions. The poem comes to an end as the father realizes there’s nothing more he can do to help his daughter, and he wishes her a lucky passage, “but harder” (33).

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  1. kitei
    Posted June 1, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    wow thanks that really helped me understand thepoem

  2. Zwei Dois II
    Posted June 2, 2008 at 1:47 am

    I can only imagine the father’s anguish in not being able to “write” for her. The symbolism of the door is very powerful. He could intervene, but he knows he shouldn’t. Great job!

  3. flamster3000
    Posted June 11, 2008 at 3:23 pm


  4. flamster3000
    Posted June 11, 2008 at 3:23 pm


  5. Spikeike9
    Posted June 11, 2008 at 6:59 pm


  6. greenymingo
    Posted June 11, 2008 at 7:14 pm


  7. krimeganne
    Posted June 11, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    this is neat!

  8. floppimoppi
    Posted June 11, 2008 at 9:02 pm

    your good at posts!

    i like chocolate!

  9. Rich
    Posted June 14, 2008 at 8:26 pm

    that was the best I heard in years! It was cool.

  10. Rich
    Posted June 14, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Your the best! Can you teach me to make things like the story.

  11. jeffandmatthardy2
    Posted June 20, 2008 at 3:57 pm


  12. Takanova
    Posted July 9, 2008 at 3:39 pm

    Nice now I get poetry

  13. alberto
    Posted July 11, 2008 at 7:45 pm

    I pitured something way diffrent. Thankyou these analyis has help me a lot to undersand this peom.

  14. Superkj100
    Posted July 17, 2008 at 6:06 pm

    That’s very awesome!

  15. Pengirl
    Posted August 6, 2008 at 11:55 am

    Nice now I know something about poetry…FINNALY!

  16. victoria
    Posted August 26, 2008 at 8:23 pm

    Wow. this was a huge help. thanks so much!

  17. aljkdjfa
    Posted October 15, 2008 at 5:21 pm

    very helpful :)

  18. noob bust3r
    Posted January 22, 2009 at 2:48 pm

    I like the chocolate background (hmm… that reminds me “where did i but my half eaten cholate bar )

  19. Laura
    Posted February 4, 2009 at 9:28 pm

    Great job!
    This helped me A LOT.

  20. noban
    Posted February 28, 2009 at 11:49 pm

    you are the reason i can love again

    thank you!

  21. fdaiopf
    Posted March 4, 2009 at 7:55 pm

    This analysis is very interesting. Your insights were helpful. I like the way you put all of the symbolism into words. Very good job!

  22. churrahee12
    Posted April 15, 2009 at 4:58 pm

    that helped me get some good grades

  23. bobofosho
    Posted May 7, 2009 at 8:41 am

    Thanks at ton! I might actually get a decide grade on my analysis of this poem. Thanks again.

  24. jgrassi
    Posted January 5, 2010 at 11:14 pm

    your a beast!

  25. Claudio
    Posted January 28, 2010 at 11:00 am

    i think it should be noted that you could have commented on the structure of the poem a bit more?

    For example, the poem uses alot of enjambment up until the first 15 lines which can be seen as sort of bursts of energy followed by pauses which resemble the daughter’s noncontinuous typing.

    Although this may just be a coincidence, take a look at the middle line of each stanza, they are bigger than the first and last lines. If you look at the poem, the stanzas look like waves.

  26. Nicole
    Posted March 6, 2010 at 4:32 pm

    THANK YOU! this helped me so much!

  27. Posted April 28, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    woow now i understand this poem and helped me do my english HW, thanks a-lot……….:)

  28. kevlo
    Posted May 3, 2010 at 5:28 pm


  29. lindsey
    Posted October 14, 2010 at 8:09 pm

    this helped a lot…i had to write a major essay on this poem, and this really helped me!!! thanks a lot♥♥♥

  30. mito chondria
    Posted October 21, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    thx so much dude
    youre the man, bro

  31. Jordan
    Posted February 24, 2011 at 2:56 pm

    thanks so much for helping me better understand this poem! i read it a couple times, but didn’t fully understand what wilbur was trying to get at. thanks again!

  32. krucks
    Posted May 10, 2011 at 12:12 am

    This was very helpful, my only question is how did you know that it was the father not the mother who was watching the daughter?

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