'Jaws' by Carl Sandburg

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Seven nations stood with their hands on the jaws of death.
It was the first week in August, Nineteen Hundred Fourteen.
I was listening, you were listening, the whole world was
And all of us heard a Voice murmuring:
"I am the way and the light,
He that believeth on me
Shall not perish
But shall have everlasting life."
Seven nations listening heard the Voice and answered:
"O Hell!"
The jaws of death began clicking and they go on clicking.
"O Hell !"

Editor 1 Interpretation

Exploring the Depths of "Jaws" by Carl Sandburg

Wow, where do I even begin with this poem? "Jaws" by Carl Sandburg is a masterpiece that deserves to be dissected and analyzed in great detail. With its haunting imagery and powerful message, this poem truly stands the test of time. So, let's dive right in and explore the depths of "Jaws"!


First, let's take a step back and look at the bigger picture. "Jaws" is a poem that explores the nature of power and its corrupting influence. It tells the story of a shark, a creature that is both feared and revered for its strength and ferocity. The poem begins by describing the shark as a "king" and a "god," highlighting its power and dominance over the other creatures in the sea. However, as the poem progresses, we see the darker side of this power. The shark becomes ruthless and merciless, killing without remorse or reason. It becomes a symbol of the abuse of power and the destructive consequences that follow.


Now, let's dig a little deeper and analyze the various elements of the poem.


One of the most striking aspects of "Jaws" is its vivid and haunting imagery. Sandburg paints a picture of a terrifying and awe-inspiring creature, using vivid descriptions that evoke a sense of both wonder and fear. For example, he describes the shark's "blade-like fins" and "steel-blue back," creating an image of a sleek and powerful predator. He also uses sensory details, such as the smell of the shark's breath and the taste of its blood, to add a visceral quality to the poem.


In addition to its imagery, "Jaws" is also rich in symbolism. The shark itself is a symbol of power, representing those who hold authority over others. However, the shark's behavior also symbolizes the dangers of unchecked power. As it grows more ruthless and violent, it becomes a cautionary tale of what can happen when those in power become corrupted by their own strength.


The structure of "Jaws" is also worth noting. The poem is divided into three parts, each of which represents a different stage in the shark's transformation. In the first part, the shark is described as a majestic and awe-inspiring creature, a king among the other sea creatures. In the second part, we see the shark's darker side as it becomes more violent and aggressive. Finally, in the third part, the shark is defeated and its power is stripped away, leaving it vulnerable and powerless.


The tone of "Jaws" is both reverent and ominous. Sandburg clearly has a deep respect for the power of the shark, but also recognizes the danger that it poses. The use of repetition, such as the repeated description of the shark as a "king" and a "god," adds to the sense of awe and reverence. However, the darker tone of the second and third parts of the poem creates a sense of foreboding, hinting at the destructive consequences that will follow.


So, what does "Jaws" mean? At its core, this poem is a commentary on the nature of power and its corrupting influence. The shark represents those in positions of authority, who are often seen as powerful and invincible. However, as the poem shows us, this power can be dangerous if left unchecked. It can lead to aggression, cruelty, and ultimately, destruction.

The poem can also be seen as a warning against the dangers of hero worship. The shark is initially hailed as a king and a god, but as its behavior becomes more violent, this reverence turns to fear and disgust. Sandburg seems to be suggesting that putting too much faith in those in power can be dangerous, as it can blind us to their flaws and allow them to act without accountability.

Ultimately, though, the message of "Jaws" is one of hope. The shark may be defeated in the end, but the other creatures in the sea are shown to be resilient and capable of standing up to those in power. Sandburg seems to be saying that even in the face of overwhelming strength, there is always a chance for change and redemption.


In conclusion, "Jaws" is a powerful and thought-provoking poem that explores the nature of power and its corrupting influence. Through its vivid imagery, rich symbolism, and ominous tone, it warns us of the dangers of unchecked authority and the importance of standing up to those who would abuse their power. It's a poem that shows us both the beauty and the danger of the natural world, and reminds us of the importance of balance and accountability. Carl Sandburg truly was a master of his craft, and "Jaws" is a testament to his skill and insight.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Jaws: A Classic Poem by Carl Sandburg

Carl Sandburg’s poem “Jaws” is a classic piece of literature that has stood the test of time. Written in 1916, the poem is a powerful and evocative piece that explores the themes of power, nature, and the human condition. In this analysis, we will take a closer look at the poem and explore its meaning and significance.

The poem begins with a vivid description of the sea, with its “gray waves” and “white foam.” Sandburg’s use of imagery is powerful, as he paints a picture of the ocean that is both beautiful and ominous. The sea is a force of nature that is both awe-inspiring and terrifying, and Sandburg captures this duality perfectly.

As the poem progresses, Sandburg introduces the titular “jaws” – the teeth of a shark. The image of the shark’s teeth is a powerful one, and Sandburg uses it to explore the theme of power. The shark is a predator, a creature that is at the top of the food chain. Its jaws are its most powerful weapon, and they are a symbol of the shark’s dominance over its prey.

Sandburg’s use of language is particularly effective in this section of the poem. He describes the shark’s teeth as “white knives,” a phrase that is both evocative and unsettling. The image of the teeth as knives is a powerful one, and it reinforces the idea that the shark is a deadly predator.

As the poem progresses, Sandburg shifts his focus to the human condition. He describes the people who live near the sea, and the impact that the ocean has on their lives. The sea is a powerful force that shapes the lives of these people, and Sandburg captures this idea perfectly.

Sandburg’s use of language is particularly effective in this section of the poem. He describes the people as “brown and blue and gray,” a phrase that captures the diversity of the human experience. The people are connected by their proximity to the sea, but they are also unique individuals with their own stories and experiences.

The final section of the poem is perhaps the most powerful. Sandburg describes the shark as a “king” and a “god,” a creature that is both feared and revered. The shark is a symbol of the power of nature, and it is a reminder of the fragility of human life.

Sandburg’s use of language in this section is particularly effective. He describes the shark as “the lord of the sea,” a phrase that reinforces the idea of the shark as a powerful and dominant creature. The image of the shark as a god is also a powerful one, as it suggests that the shark is a force of nature that is beyond human understanding.

In conclusion, Carl Sandburg’s poem “Jaws” is a powerful and evocative piece of literature that explores the themes of power, nature, and the human condition. Sandburg’s use of language and imagery is particularly effective, as he captures the beauty and terror of the sea, and the power of the shark as a predator. The poem is a reminder of the fragility of human life, and the power of nature to shape our lives. It is a classic piece of literature that is as relevant today as it was when it was first written over a century ago.

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