Sample English Essays on The Poem “The Vacuum”


The Vacuum created by the death of a loved one can never be fully covered or occupied by anyone or anything.


‘The Vacuum’ is a poem by Howard Nemerov. It talks about one widower as well as his dead wife, and how he symbolically uses the vacuum to represent the death of his late wife. The poem is an expression expresses the sadness and deep sorrow derived from the narrator’s loneliness, after the passing away of his better half. The writer is on an attempt to take the reader on a journey full of grief and despair, through the strategic employment of figurative language throughout the poem.

This is an expression of feelings of sadness, sorrow and loneliness by writing which is really a difficult task for one to engage in especially when it touches the passing away of a lover, a family and a life partner who one already spent a lot of time with bringing so much joy and meaning in one’s life. Howard Nemerov has attempted to take it on his hands in his poem ‘The Vacuum.’

Literary Devices

Personification in the poem has been used to allow the narrator use a cleaner in paralleling his feelings for his dead wife together with feelings that he presently has with his late wife. Personification is well demonstrated in the seventh and eighth line when he says, “But when my old woman died her soul/ Went into that vacuum cleaner.” According to the narrator, he has personifies the vacuum to be his wife. On the second line it reads, “The vacuum cleaner sulks in the corner closet,” and this suggests that the vacuum, is in refusal to talk to him because of the “filth” (11) in his current life; this dirt wouldn’t be existing if the wife lived. This is evident from the third to the fifth lines when its states, “its mouth/ Grinning into the floor, maybe at my/ Slovenly life, my dog-dead youth.”
The vacuum is metaphorical and is alluring to the space in the life of this widower that came to be after the death of his wife. Now that the wife is absent after passing away, “house is quiet now” (1). He never has anyone to talk to, the vacuum cleaner, which is his wife’s remnant, “sulks in the corner closet” (2). The life that was once full of activity and fulfillment has narrowed down to bare loneliness. The eleventh line kicks off metaphorically, “there is old filth everywhere,” that compares to his late lover “used to crawl, in the corner and under the stair,” (11) to clean the filth, but with her absence, filth is slowly building up.

Similes have also been employed in this piece of art in expressing his emotional state. He narrates, “Its bag limp as a stopped lung (3), comparing the vacuum bag and his inactive life. The eighth and ninth line states, “I can’t bear/ to see the bag swell like a belly.” The simile here suggests that because of the vacuum, he was able to live again since his lover passed away.

Employing figurative language is the primary element that takes the reader on sorrow and loneliness filled journey. Personification being used as the most significant figurative language in the poem. The poem’s theme focuses on dealing with the passing away of a loved one suggesting that everybody has to one point in their life experience grief and that different people will cope with such an intense and painful ordeal differently.


Works Cited

NEMEROV, HOWARD. “POETRY FOUNDATION.” The Vacuum, 1977, Accessed 5 Oct. 2017.