Naked and the Nude

Stanza 1: Dictionary makers say the words “naked” and “nude” are synonyms, but Graves says they’re very different. Stanza 2: Naked is natural and innocent. Stanza 3: Nude is sneaky, uninnocent. Stanza 4: So the nude could defeat the naked; but in the end, they’re the same. But, bare bones summaries never tell the whole story (With this poem’s title, I couldn’t resist the “bare bones”; if you caught it the first time, sorry for the repetition). The “Latinate” “scholarly” vocabulary of the first stanza is appropriate. It sounds more like a dictionary or encyclopedia than a poem because Graves is starting with dictionary definitions.

(Sidebar—-The text raised that issue and this is a good time to say something about the questions or topics for writing after the works. Sometimes the point is obvious; sometimes it’s important; sometimes it’s not; sometimes I don’t understand the point. But my point is, read the questions and topics; if you think about them, you’ll be helping yourself reach a better understanding of the work). But after citing the dictionary’s belief that the two words are synonyms, Graves insists they are as different “As love from lies or truth from art.

” We have no trouble separating the alliteration-linked “love” and “lies”; but the next pair should cause us to pause, make us say, Huh. For we probably would expect an artist to think and say that art is true. But when we remember the simplest definition of art (an imitation or impression of reality) we remember that art is not real; “art” after all is the root word of “artificial. ” So art is not true. In the second stanza Graves cites three positive examples of “naked. ” For lovers the lack of clothes is obviously appropriate and a turn on. The condition is also appropriate for doctors, but they only see anatomy.

The virgin goddess Diana is so innocent that she wears nothing, so innocent that she needs protection from the world—thus the lion on which she rides. The nude, however, according to Graves, are “bold,” “sly. ” Like a strip tease artist who never quite shows everything, the nude tease, hiding their lack of dress “in rhetoric” (Naked? Of course not, I’m nude). Like Joy/Hulga, they feel superior to the “poor,” “naive” people who don’t realize their condition. Because the nude are anything but innocent, they could easily defeat the naked in any competition.

But look out; Graves is about to make a 180-degree u-turn. Using the image of the classical underworld, complete with the whip-brandishing Gorgons, Graves says in death the naked and the nude are the same. First of all, simplistically, everyone’s the same in death. http://webhome. idirect. com/~donlong/monsters/Html/Gorgon. htm But Graves’ point is more complex. First of all, he’s using the Gorgons as a symbol for pain, agony, any terrible experience. Under such circumstances, the clever, bold, “superior” people are reduced to simple and innocent pain and terror: “How naked go the sometime nude” (24).

On a totally generic level, this finally is a poem about language. Any two words, no matter how similar they usually seem, can also be total opposites. But they also are the same. If the poem is finally about words, why use “naked” and “nude”? A little more interesting title than “Different Words,” isn’t it? One last point. All words have denotations—the dictionary definition; many words have connotations—emotional baggage that evoke positive or negative reactions. How about “thin,” “trim,” “skinny,” “gaunt,” and “anorexic,” for example.

A dictionary might list them as synonyms but obviously the last two at least are far more negative that the first two. There’s an interesting irony in this poem about words. Graves says “naked” has an innocent connotation and “nude” negative. Today the words have totally changed connotations. Art students don’t paint “nakeds”; they paint “nudes. ” So words which seem the same can be different, can be the same, and can totally change. By Jerry Barcenas In the clever yet relatable poem by Robert Graves, “The Naked And The Nude,” the narrator compares and contrasts the words “naked” and “nude.

” In order to prove his point of how semantics can change the feeling associated by a word, which is normally subjective, Graves persuades the reader with structure, allusions, and tone to make a distinction between “naked” and “nude. ” The intricate and very well developed structure, much like Shakespeare, in “The Naked And The Nude” demonstrates the complexity of the poem and hides the underlying meaning to the reader. In respect to the meter, Graves uses iambic tetrameter and the poem is structured as four sestets with rhyming couplets.

The way this poem is structured is like a puzzle that Graves is giving to the reader to piece together. For example, the parenthesis used as an after thought to the subject give a basic Webster’s definition of the words “naked and nude. ” This is used to compare the two words but at the same time, the narrator suggests the words “stand as wide apart / As love from lies, or truth from art. ” This notion expresses that while some people believe love is extremely dissimilar than lies, that others could view it as very analogous.

As well as the structure, the very unusual references used in this poem contribute greatly to the meaning. The lovers who look upon naked bodies with passion explains that there is a overzealous meaning to nakedness. In Graves allusion to Hippocrates, a Greek physician of the 400 B. C. era, nakedness is viewed as unemotional and detached through his study of anatomy. In the narrator’s last illustration of the naked body, it is observed as divine and holy through the allusion to a Hindu goddess. All of these instances of the naked body put it on a pedestal solely because the poet’s word choice.

This sets up the contrast to the word nude. In the third stanza, the poet creates as insecure and raw tone. He describes the nude as “bold, sly, treasonable, tricky, and mock-religious. ” Using these words chips away at the pure meaning of the word nude. Graves depicts the nudist’s as being overconfident which implies that they are compensating for the dirty connation that they stand for. The narrator does this to set up a contrast to the word “naked. ” In doing this, he exhibits the cut and dry line between “naked and nude.

” In reality, these words are synonyms and he is trying to stress that semantics play an important role in how we communicate. The tone a word gives off can completely change how we interpret it. Robert Graves’ “The Naked And The Nude” compels us as human being’s to question the importance of word usage. Next time, the reader will be more careful when choosing words to communicate with someone. The implied meaning could prove to be negative or positive based on the structure, allusions, and tone the author uses. So next time, let’s not argue over semantics.

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