33 pages 1 hour read

Ted Kooser

Abandoned Farmhouse

Fiction | Poem | Adult | Published in 1980

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Poem Analysis

Analysis: “Abandoned Farmhouse”

The poem opens with an apparently neutral observation about an unnamed man who used to occupy the abandoned farmhouse. His shoe size indicates he was “a big man” (Line 1). The next line reveals the shoes have been left “on a pile of broken dishes by the house” (Line 2). The shoes don’t say they have any damage, and the narrator provides no reason for their abandonment. The reader also learns from “the length of the bed” (Line 3) that the man in question was tall.

Big, tall men are symbolic of strength and capability to many. Possessing these culturally valued characteristics could not save the farm from its abandonment, however. And though there can be comfort in identifying a culprit for the farmhouse’s abandonment (if a reason is found, perhaps an unfavorable outcome can be avoided in the future), in the poem’s case, nothing is that clear.

Despite offering a list of observations, the poem sows doubt about the accuracy of surface observations. It is impossible to know the full story of another’s life, the poem suggests, especially when they aren’t there to speak up for themselves. At the same time, the poem suggests it is important to look at the world and observe.