18 pages 36 minutes read

Stephen Crane

A Man Said to the Universe

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1899

A modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, SuperSummary offers high-quality Study Guides with detailed chapter summaries and analysis of major themes, characters, and more.

Literary Devices

Form and Meter

Crane’s poem is an example of free verse, which means Crane does not use a meter or include rhymes. Without a formal meter, the lines can have as many or as few unstressed and stressed syllables as the poet wants, and it can sound discordant. The lack of meter manifests in the varying line length. Line 2 is only three words, while Line 4 extends to seven words. The absence of rhymes produces a flat sound. The poem does not have a musical quality but sounds more like prose broken up into lines.

Free verse links to the man's freedom. Since the universe does not feel responsible for the man, the man is free to experience the world and its sundry dangers. Here, freedom is not such a positive thing. The lack of rhyme connects to the unpleasant themes of the poem. The poem does not sound mellifluous when read out loud because Crane’s idea of the world is severe. The universe is a strident not a sweet-sounding place. Finally, the overall size of the poem reflects the universe’s attitude towards humans. The universe feels no “obligation” (Line 5), so it cuts the conversation short; the universe does not have to share its attention or time, just as Crane does not have to supply the reader with a longer poem.