Wislawa Szymborska’s poem “Brueghel’s Two Monkeys” starts out in a strange way. It begins when the author “dreams about final exams” (1). Oddly, what she sees in her dream is “two monkeys, chained to the floor” (2). The poem is about the human conditions in different settings of mankind. The monkeys are the things that the poets dream about the exam. They are a symbol of the suffering of mankind, based on the chains, through the unpredictable events. As said in the last stanza, “One monkey stares and listens with a mocking disdain” (7), while “the other seems to be dreaming away” (8). The poem is full of metaphors that get the reader thinking about what it means in respect to what the author is addressing. Reality has junctions in which one side of the representation is peaceful while the other side of the representation is harsh. In Wislawa’s “Brueghel’s Two Monkeys”, we will look at the representation of human condition in a certain event. We will examine the human condition through exams, history, and solution.
In the poem, when it comes to exams being one of the human conditions, it shows a great deal of decision making. In the first stanza of the poem there is a significant note of assessment. The part where the two monkeys were “chained to the floor, sit on the windowsill” (2), the line after states “the sky behind them flutters” (3). The monkeys are being assessed in beginning of the poem. The part where the monkeys “sit on the windowsill” (2) asks the question of whether one should stay in the position where they are or go against something, sort of like a higher power, and try to run away from it. Szymborska than excites the reader by presenting that “the sky behind them flutters” (3). What Szymborska means about “flutters” is probably a good thing because, as an illustration, if one escapes something very injustice they might move towards freedom. The whole idea in the first stanza is about testing whether the monkeys are willing to get away from brutal “chains” or head towards the fluttering sky and freedom. Since the beginning of time, people have gone through circumstances in which they felt that the government or some kind of higher power is not doing their society any good. The potato famine in Ireland demonstrates a great deal of this type of exam causing people to ask whether they should stay “chained” or get away from the society.
There is a saying that states that those who don’t know history are destined to repeat it. The reason for learning history is to get a better understanding of affairs that happened and to prevent them from happening in the present and future. From the poet’s perspective, she views history as a significant study. In the first stanza, “final exams” (1) are seen as negative based on the “two monkeys, chained to the floor” (2) of the poet’s dreams. The chains on the monkeys represent the suffering that many human beings had to go through. The two monkeys illustrate the “history of mankind” (5) and the conditions that came upon many societies. One event that recounts this idea is slavery of the slavery of Africans in the United States during the 1800’s. Mankind’s history can be defined as a man’s brutality to man, the enslavement of man by his fellow man.
In certain events, human conditions are seen through people who try to find solutions to major problems. The world has been full of struggles where mankind have gone through insane circumstances and trying to find the answer to solve it. In the last stanza, Szymborska says “but when it’s clear I don’t know what to say he prompts me with a gentle clinking oh his chain”. This is hard to understand coming from this poet because this line can have multiple meanings for multiple situations, but it’s clear what it means. This is an act of trying to give the answer whatever the situation is. The “clinking of his chain” describes the solution to something. The line is said in a metaphoric way so that it can have more than one meaning to the reader. As said earlier in the poem, the two monkeys have the problem of being chained to the suffering of the society that they have come to be civilized in or being forced to become part of the society. Knowing that the society that the monkeys are in is a harsh place, they try to get away from it. The other part of reality that was recognized in the poem known as peaceful is hidden in where “he prompts me with a gentle” (10). The words peaceful and gentle are both from the same root which indicates that the next line reading “clinking of his chain” (11), shows that there would be a solution or answer towards the reality of serenity. Again with history, many movements have been created to ensure a better society. Revolutions, independences, treaties, and other historical phenomenon have created solutions in order to maintain their society’s order of mankind and civilization.
I think that the poem delivers a great theme of the representation of human conditions in certain events in terms of exams, history, and solutions. Exams in this poem are seen as a decision making and whether one tries to go against an authority. In many societies, there are many assessments where the kind of government wants to see how people react towards their ruling. History mimics an art museum of the past and shows what the poet mean about being “chained” as the state of sorrow and enslavement. We look at the past to deter ourselves from making big decisions that lead to what were previous problems. Solutions are defined in the poem as a way to escape realities’ harsh factors. The dream of the poet describes the history of mankind as being an exam to see if we have understood our judgments towards our fellow beings.