‘Where the sidewalk ends’ is a poem by Shel Silverstein published in 1974 in a children’s poetry collection that talks about escaping from the world of adulthood through childish imagination. The poem consists of three stanzas with a rhyming scheme AABCCD, ABCCDB, and AABC. The poem uses the dactylic dimeter that talks about embracing the imaginary paradise by letting go of the mundane world.
Where the Sidewalk Ends | Summary and Analysis
Where the Sidewalk Ends I Stanza I
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.
The speaker tells about a place that comes after the sidewalk and before the street where the grass is soft and there is crimson-colored sunlight and the moon birds rest in the cool breeze.
This part is a fragment of the speaker’s imagination which he has created to escape from the reality. This image of a place gives an impression of an ideal place which shows the beauty of nature. The surreal setting of the soft grass, the crimson sunlight, the moon bird, and the wind reflects a heavenly atmosphere.
Where the Sidewalk Ends I Stanza II
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.
The speaker tells the readers to leave the place full of smoke, and dark streets, and walk past the flowers covered with asphalt to the end of the sidewalk.
The speaker in this stanza comes back to the reality where the world is suffering from pollution. The place is full of smoke and asphalt which causes the environment to be extremely toxic. The speaker wants all to leave the place and walk toward the end of the sidewalk. The decaying place refers to adulthood and the speaker’s appeal to let go of the place.
Where the Sidewalk Ends I Stanza III
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, know
The place where the sidewalk ends.
The speaker encourages the readers to walk slowly in the path marked with the chalk arrows by the children as the children are the one who knows where the sidewalk ends.
The speaker is referring to the carefree world of children. The child-like thoughts and perceptions are where they walk slowly which contrasts with the fast-paced world of adults. When the speaker asks the readers to walk on the path marked by the children toward the end of the sidewalk it implies a carefree, peaceful life. The shifting from a polluted place to the end of the sidewalk shows a form of transition from looking at the materialistic things in life to spiritual and peaceful life to being free from greed, and expectations, and embracing the carefree nature, peace, and happiness of life.
Where the Sidewalk Ends I Analysis
The poet shows the comparison between two places and two stages of life. One place is full of greenery, peace, and beauty, and the other shows the human existence and the consequences of their establishment, pollution smoke dust that creates a toxic environment.
The poet explains how there is a place where the sidewalk ends and the street begins. The stanza shows the image of an ideal place that is beautiful and untouched by any toxicity. The grass that grows is “soft” and “white” where White implies a peaceful heavenly place which shows how surreal the place is.
The color of the grass which is explained in the stanza can be the speaker’s effort to create an imaginary paradise to achieve pleasure in mind by escaping from a mundane world.
The second stanza gives the readers an image of a dark place full of pollution and toxicity which makes the place look unwelcoming to reside in. The “asphalt” flowers and the “pits” imply the destruction and decay in the place.
The dull place contrasts with the place explained by the speaker in the first stanza. The speaker asks the readers to leave the dark place and head toward the end of the sidewalk that has beauty and peace to offer.
The difference in the places also shows a difference between childhood, youth, and adulthood. Childhood is full of innocence and beauty represented in the first stanza where the serenity, the beauty lie at the end of the sidewalk. Adulthood is full of greed, stress, and selfishness, and people are corrupted and toxic in the same way the speaker explains the second stanza about a dark place full of toxicity.
The sidewalk represents the toxic life, the mundane life, and at the beginning of the street is an escape from harsh adulthood through creative imagination. The “chalk-white arrows” can be followed to reach paradise or the ideal world of imagination.
The speaker tells his readers that the arrows are marked by the children as the children are the innocent ones aware of the place. This implies one should walk in the path of the children or use their innocence and the good in them to reach the place. Innocence and good motives will help move through life and win over any difficulty. The children are free from any complex thoughts and look at the world in simpler terms, hence the speaker explains to the readers to go through life using a youthful vision, to be positive, and not be too hard on themselves. Through that one can escape the issues of life and rather enjoy living it to the fullest.
This poem shows the difficult adult life and how youthful imagination and childish thoughts can help take a step back from the busy life and enjoy the little things in life. The poem shows adult life to be harsh on people and that childish thoughts are an escape. The poem applies to children and their youth and innocence but adults too can have a look at it as it interests the inner child as well.
The poem talks about the escape from the real harsh and busy world and the beginning of the journey to an imaginary paradise. The sidewalk implies the rough world that has made people greedy, sad, selfish, and depressed which obstructs creative imagination and innocence. Hence the speaker tells the readers about the place that comes after the sidewalk and tells them to engross in the imaginary world of nature, beauty, and peace. The speaker shows the readersidewalkcape from the mundane world by moving out of the sideline.
Where the Sidewalk Ends I Form
Where the Sidewalk Ends is a three-stanza poem with six lines in the first stanza, six lines in the second stanza, and 4 lines in the third stanza. The poem uses dactylic dimeter and rhyming scheme of AABCCD, ABCCDB, and AABC. The poem talks about two different places, an imaginary paradise, and a dark, decaying place.
The poet uses a calm and positive tone for most of the poem except in the second stanza which talks about the toxic atmosphere.
Where the Sidewalk Ends I Theme
The poem shows the theme of escaping from harsh adult life and stepping into an imaginary peaceful world. The speaker explains how there is a place at the end of the sidewalk where the grass is soft and white which implies that the place isn’t real since grass is never white. The speaker asks the readers to leave the place full of smoke and dust and follow the white marks to get to the place where the sidewalk ends. Through his appeal, he explains the shift from a decaying world to paradise. The decayed world shown using images of smoke, dust, and pollution reflects the mundane adult life and paradise is the creative world full of peace, nature, and beauty. The sidewalk is full of toxicity that hinders creativity, and happiness, and hence the speaker appeals to leave the place and follow the way marked by children.
Where the Sidewalk Ends I Stanza Poetic Devices
Sound and Rhythm
Alliteration is used in the poem in the first stanza-
“grass grows”, in the second stanza “blows black” and the speaker talks about having slow and simple steps and walking on a path that has white arrow marks created by children.
“We shall walk with a walk that is measured and slow,
And watch where the chalk-white arrows go”
Repetition is used in the poem in the first stanza when the speaker talks about an imaginary world of paradise with soft grass, sunlight, and moon bird,
“And there the grass grows soft and white,
And there the sun burns crimson bright,
And there the moon-bird rests from his flight “
And the phrase “where the sidewalk ends” has been repetitively used in the poem.
Imagery is used through the phrase peppermint wind, sun burns crimson bright, chalk-white arrows
The place full of smoke and pollution becomes a metaphor for industrialization as well as the harsh and toxic adult world.
About the Author
Shel Silverstein was an American poet whose work is not limited just to the art of writing but extends to entertainment. He was a cartoonist, playwriter, and Grammys-awarded songwriter. His works mostly attracted young readers that focused on wit, humor, simple thinking, and complicated imagination. His famous works include “The Giving Tree” and “A Boy Named Sue”.