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“Schoolsville” by Billy Collins Review

“Schoolsville” is one of the most popular Billy Collin’s poems. This poem touches upon the theme of the boundaries between reality and unreality. Reading this poem firstly I had thought that it presents the memories of old teacher about his pupils but the last two verses confused me and made me doubt whether the narrator was the teacher or the mayor or he was the mayor who had been the teacher in his young years.

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Billy Collins uses an interesting style of writing. Firstly, he presents the memories and thoughts of the narrator and then he declares his hand and says about the real essence of the narrator. The boundaries between reality and unreality are vanished and it becomes quite complicated for the reader to catch the main idea of the poem. The theme of vague boundaries between reality and unreality is one of the main themes covered by many writers of different epochs. William Shakespeare touches upon this theme in his comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”. The main characters of his play cannot understand whether all events happened to them are the reality or just their dreams. Billy Collins presents this theme in his poem by depicting the narrator whose occupation is not clear whether he is a teacher or a mayor, whether all his thoughts are the result of his previous experience and memories or just flight of his fancy.

Although it is difficult to differentiate reality and unreality in Billy Collins’s work, there are a lot of other interesting ideas which attract my interest. The author uses interesting stylistic devices namely metaphors and similes. He differentiates people stuck with the labels of A and D according to their grades which they got at the school. These grades “are sewed in their clothes” (Roberts, Zweig and Stotler, p. 642). The narrator describes the school life as if he was a real teacher but he is a mayor living “in the white colonial at Maple and Main” (Roberts, Zweig and Stotler, p. 643). Who is the narrator in fact? Is he a teacher or a mayor? There may be a lot of versions as far as human imagination is boundless.

The narrator describes the details of school life and the process of education when the grades define the whole life of every pupil: “The A’s stroll along with other A’s. The D’s honk whenever they pass another D” (Roberts, Zweig and Stotler, p. 642). This division of pupils into grades is a sort of humiliation. Nevertheless, it expresses the essence of education when every pupil is assessed according to his/her grades not according to human qualities. The attitude of the teacher to the pupil primarily depends on grades. I disagree in this case with the author. Every person has the possibility to improve his/her grade during the life from D to A or vise verse and our life does not depend on our school grades. Nevertheless, this metaphor about grades is quite interesting and expresses our modern society. The author describes the life of a teacher who was such demanded in his young years and now he sits at home and his life becomes senseless. Although some his previous students attend him, in fact, he spends his time “lecturing the wallpaper, quizzing the chandelier, reprimanding the air” (Roberts, Zweig and Stotler, p. 643).

Billy Collins’s “Schoolsville” presents the man who is at the border between reality and unreality. The loss of the feeling of the reality may bring into a state of insane as we can see from the poem when the thoughts of narrator seem to be the gibberish. The narrator creates a small world in his head where he leaves.

Works Cited

Roberts, Edgar, Zweig, Robert and Stotler, Darlene. Literature. An Introduction to Reading and Writing. New York: Longman, 2012. Print.

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StudyCorgi. (2021) '“Schoolsville” by Billy Collins Review'. 17 December.

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