Where The Sidewalk Ends Poems Summary: Sheldon Allan Silverstein was born during the Great Depression into an immigrant Jewish family in Chicago on September 25, 1930. He was popularly known as Shel Silverstein.
He started writing and doodling from a very young age. He was a cartoonist, playwright, poet, performer, and recording artist.
“Giving Tree”, published in 1964, is Silverstein’s first major work and the best-known title. The book describes the relationship between a boy and a tree. It has been translated into various languages. As late as 2013, it ranked third on a Goodreads list of “Best Children’s Books.”
“Where the Sidewalk Ends”, published in 1974, is a collection of poems dealing with many common childhood concerns. The National Education Association added the book in the “Teachers Top 100 Books for Children” after a vote organized in 2007. Its audio version was released in 1983.
Students can also check the English Summary to revise with them during exam preparation.
In 1984, Shel Silverstein won the Grammy Award for Best Recording For Children for the audio version of ‘Where the Sidewalk Ends’. It was released on a cassette version in 1983 and as an LP phonograph record in 1984.
In 1991, Silverstein was nominated for Oscar Award for his song ‘I’m Checkin’ Out’, which he had written for the 1990 film, ‘Postcards from the Edge’.
Shel Silverstein has earned a cult status in terms of children’s poetry. It is not only the children who love Uncle Shel; the adults equally love and admire his work.
Silverstein died of a heart attack either on May 9 or May 10, 1999, in Key West, Florida. His housekeepers found his body on May 10, and he might have died the day before. He is buried in Westlawn Cemetery in Norridge, Illinois.
He illustrated his books. They are characterized by a skilled mixing of the sly and the serious, the macabre and the silly. Readers of all age groups admire his unique imagination and bold brand of humour.
In the year 2002, he was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and, in 2014, into the Chicago Literary Hall of Fame.
Where the Sidewalk Ends Summary
The poem is set in two different backdrops. The first part of the poem reflects a place where a sidewalk ends. This place is the embodiment of beauty, untouched by the side effects of human civilization.
The latter part of the poem speaks about a place surrounded by black smoke and pollution harrows. The poet urges us to leave this doomed place and follow the children’s path to find a more peaceful place.
The mention of the angelic children guiding us towards beautiful nature is more inclined towards the notions of spirituality and soulfulness than just the physical phase of life. The poet desires the readers to gain freedom from greed and selfishness, accept innocence, love, and peace towards leading a happy and pure life.
This poem can be perceived as a transition between childhood and adulthood. Adulthood can be held synonymous to the latter place described in the poem- filled with obstacles.
The initial part of the poem is similar to the childhood of a person- sprawling with innocence.
Where the Sidewalk Ends Structure
The poem is written in three stanzas. The first stanza has six lines. The second stanza similarly consists of six lines. The third stanza is comparatively small, with only four lines.
The poem follows a rhymic scheme of the pattern AABCCD, ABCCDB, AABC.
The poet wrote the poem with a dactylic dimeter. A dactylic dimeter means that each line has two feet.
Where the Sidewalk Ends Literary Devices
Alliteration is the recurrence of the same consonant sounds at the beginning of words close to each other. This repetition of sounds brings attention to the lines in which it is used and creates a more aural beat.
We can see the employment of alliteration in the lines “We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow” with an emphasis on the letter “w”. The line “Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black” also features alliteration.
Repetition has been used throughout the poem. The phrase “where the sidewalk ends” has been used greatly in the entire poem. The use of repetition highlights the meaning of the poem.
Another literary device he uses is imagery. Imagery engages human senses to deepen the reader’s understanding of the work. It uses the senses to create a vivid image in the reader’s mind.
The description of the grass or the sunlight employs a strong use of imagery. The “peppermint wind” influences our olfactory senses.
Detailed Analysis of Where the Sidewalk Ends
“There is a place where the sidewalk ends
And before the street begins,
And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight
To cool in the peppermint wind.”
These lines give an eye-soothing and mesmerizing image of an ideal place. The lines speak of a place surrounded by the beauty of nature and untouched by pollution.
The place is located at the end of a sidewalk and the beginning of a street. It is the meeting grounds of the sidewalk and the street.
The grass that grows there is “soft and white,” which implies its surreal setting. The word “white” has been used to highlight the similarities between this perfectly peaceful place and heaven.
Since normally grasses are not white, this can also be seen as an attempt to create a romantic place in the reader’s mind.
The crimson beams of the sun fall here and make it bright. The moon birds rest here in the cooling surrounding of the peppermint wind.
The place is a fragment of the imagination of the poet and can not be found physically. It is a place which one can resort to escape from the daily mundane life.
“Let us leave this place where the smoke blows black
And the dark street winds and bends.
Past the pits where the asphalt flowers grow
We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go
To the place where the sidewalk ends.”
These lines describe a dark place which is an aftereffect of industrial pollution. This place is filled with black smoke, which makes this place extremely unwelcoming and toxic to live in. It is not filled with youthfulness and is dull and dark.
The place is the exact opposite of the place described earlier. The flowers that grow here are “asphalt”, which indicates the decay taking place here.
The description here points to a more real and practical world. One can use the word “pits” to understand the depths of how bad the situation has grown due to pollution.
The poet asks the audience to leave this doomed place and head towards the sidewalk’s end, which promises a more peaceful life. This place is the embodiment of a ruined and cursed scenario with not even an inch of a place left to breathe fresh air.
The transition between the places can also be seen as a change from childhood and adulthood. Adulthood life is full of hardships, like the place with black smoke.
Childhood life is innocent and more carefree, like the place marked by the end of the sidewalk. It did not have any responsibilities to shoulder.
Hence, the sidewalk represents a mundane life filled with obstacles, and the end of the sidewalk is a place flourishing with nature.
The phrase “walk that is measured and slow” emphasizes that every step in adult life needs to be measured and well thought of. Adult life comes with a lot of responsibilities which demands slow and measured steps throughout.
However, there is always a scope to leave behind this life and follow the “chalk-white arrows” and embark on the different unexplored aspects of life.
“Yes, we’ll walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And we’ll go where the chalk-white arrows go,
For the children, they mark, and the children, they know
The place where the sidewalk ends.”
The children are the purest souls who are instructed by their innocence and are the only ones aware of the “place where the sidewalk ends.” The poet urges the audience to follow their trail and go to that place.
Children have been referred to hereto as representing the innocence and the essence of good. It is much needed to guide us through our life and help us survive all the difficulties and hardships at every stage of life. The poet believes that we want to be as happy and real as children at the end of the tunnel.
Children are unaware of the serious issues of life and enjoy every little moment of it. They do not have any complexities and have a pure heart.
The poet believes that if we live life through a child’s eyes, we will enjoy the better things life gives us than lament over the small losses we encounter each day. We should, at the time, leave behind the grave issues of life and indulge in some light living.
One can always escape from the brutalities of adult life and plunge into the childlike innocence one has. The escape helps us to forget worldly issues and relish the pleasure of life.
We should always cherish the small bits and flashes of our life and. There is no harm in embracing the inside child, which eventually gets lost under society’s huge pressure.
Although the poem is written for kids, it holds for the adults also.