Comparing The History Teacher 'And Outdistanced'

Words: 539
Pages: 3

The use of line breaks and symbolism in the two poems “The History Teacher” by Billy Collins and “Outdistanced” by Larry Rubin punctuate the shared theme that a willful lack of self-awareness can quickly lead to a greater social ignorance of what should shape humanity.

In the two poems, there’s a shared theme that in the lack of self-awareness is a greater social ignorance of what should shape humanity, demonstrated through symbolism. In an attempt to protect all innocence, the history teacher understates historical events, only for it to turn awry when it’s discerned that the children have already turned to violence in the playground. The history teacher walks home “past flower beds and white picket fences,/wondering if they would believe” oblivious to the the fact that the
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The symbolism in these lines emphasizes how he sees his perfect, innocent little students, whom he wishes to preserve. This naivety and negligence prevents him from seeing the truth of how much he has already corrupted the children. By censoring the violence of history, he has only ensured it to continue to happen all over again. The purposeful absence of names creates a ubiquitous message in which Collins denotes that prohibiting an understanding of the past will lead to a lack of respect and empathy for it; this in turn prevents the society from recognizing the consequences of its actions. Similarly, Rubin uses symbolism to depict a young protagonist speeding through life and literally past an old man to convey a common message. As the protagonist “jets” past the elder “the way/the sun outstrips the stars,” it becomes evident that he’s comparing himself to the older man; he sees himself as the bright and shining sun, while the old man is just a little star in the distance (6-7). The sun, in this case, symbolizes the young man’s lack of self-awareness as well as how self-conceited he is. He has yet to realize the sun is just another young star in the