Two Scavengers in a Truck, Two Beautiful People in a Mercedes by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Notes on the poem Two Scavengers in a Truck, Two Beautiful People in a Mercedes by Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

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  • Created on: 26-04-11 08:45
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Two Scavengers in a Truck, Two Beautiful People in a Mercedes by Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Poet & Context
Born in 1919 in New York
Mostly associated with San Francisco as one of the main poets of the Beat movement.
In 1953 co-founded publishing house and bookshop called City Lights, specialising in Beat poetry
becoming a meeting place for poets and artists.
First book was published in 1955; has since written 17 more books of poetry, drama, prose and
Often writes about politics and social issues,
Was named as San Francisco's first Poet Laureate in 1998.
Two Scavengers is a protest poem about American Democracy and Society
Ideas & emotions
Protest poem against American society
Tells of two pairs of people- scavengers and an "elegant couple" and how they are in many
ways similar, yet despite being together, and despite being told that all can be equal and
achieve with work, the gap which should be easy to cross is still impossible and dangerous
Structure & Rhythm
Broken up and fragmented on the page, which could suggest the brokenness of society and
how it is split up
No punctuation- unconventional, suggesting that the poet is challenging what is conventional,
and perhaps removing any obvious signs of separation, using the lines instead to break up the
poem, suggesting the separation still does exist.
By using enjambment to break up poem makes reader pause, and consider each idea separately
Title shows quickly that poem will be about contrasts between two pairs of people.
'Scavengers' is derogatory term for the garbagemen as it suggests they live off rubbish of
others - scavenger beetle lives off rotting flesh. However, 'Beautiful People' is a compliment.
From start, we feel garbagemen are at a disadvantage.
Garbagemen are 'looking down' (line 7) into Mercedes. This is as the garbage truck is taller than
the car, but is also ironic, as you expect the rich couple to 'look down on' the dustmen, could
suggest that garbagemen are in reality, harder working, and better people?
Blond hair is 'casually coifed' which is oxymoronic, suggestive that it is fake.
The younger garbageman has 'sunglasses & long hair' like the 'Mercedes driver', forcing reader
to compare the two.
Written in the present tense, giving sense of immediacy ­ it feels like the poem is happening
now, and suggests that the gap between rich and the poor is a current problem
Modern, simple and sometimes colloquial language.
'&' is used linking hair and sunglasses.
Reference to "Quasimodo" which basically means half human, suggests that democracy meant to
make everyone equal, but it has failed for the garbagemen, as they are portrayed as not fully

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The phrase "small gulf" is oxymoronic; suggesting that society believes the gap between the
classes to be small, in reality it is huge and dangerous to cross. Alternatively it could show that
the difference between the people is tiny, yet society has made it into a gulf.…read more


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