Analyzing Aimé Cesaire’s “The Automatic Crystal”. In depth, with a concentration on the elements of surrealism.
Surrealist pieces are often dream-like in nature. The process of automatic writing can create seemingly incoherent elements; dreams often have oddities and don’t follow the ordinarily observed qualities in life. In “The Automatic Crystal”, Aimé Césaire uses many surrealist elements to convey profound love. Through the use of mechanics, juxtaposition of love, and bizarre imagery, Césaire successfully portrays a love that is so profound that it can only be described with the dream-like qualities that are characteristic of surrealism.
The mechanics of “The Automatic Crystal” have dream-like qualities. During a dream, no start or end is normally realized, and by neglecting punctuation Césaire adapts this characteristic to portray the eternal love that is portrayed throughout the poem. Césaire also uses “hullo hullo” throughout the poem (Césaire 42). Hullo is often used as a greeting, or to start a conversation. In this case, however, it is used as a marker for change. The evolution of this poem starts as a primitive element, where Césaire considers the persona of the poem to be a “cave man” observing “cicadas which deafen both their life and their death” (42). The cave man follows this pattern of living for the present, drowning out the possibility of thinking of death in the future, or his birth in past. This primitive state then evolves to a more understanding element wishing to be on the “clear other side of the earth” fantasizing about “the tips of [her] breasts” (42).
The primitive, observing cave man has thus evolved to an understanding, fantasizing man seemingly separated from his passion. This process of evolution is similar to that of the process of falling in love. Love starts as a fancy or crush, and as time goes on this crush develops into a more powerful emotion called love. Just as coal can become a diamond, this crush becomes a metaphorical crystal. Césaire emphasizes this by stating: “hullo hullo the enlargement of the crystal that’s you” (42). The persona of the poem acknowledges the growth of his emotions through the enlargement of this crystal called love, despite the distance separating them. By demonstrating this eternal essence as well as the evolutionary factor to love, the profound nature of love is expressed.
Césaire conveys the profoundness of love by juxtaposing it. In some cases the persona of the poem is degraded in order to elevate the status of the lover. “I will never be that color to think of you” (42). Through the juxtaposition of colour and thought the persona is degraded while raising the value of the lover. The persona is expressed as not worthy by illustrating a lack of the colour that is needed to even consider loving this lover. This is not the only way in which the persona is not worthy, however. “I left all my words at the pawn shop” (42). Stereotypically pawnshops buy and sell junk and oddities. This juxtaposition compares his words with junk and effectively conveys the idea that not only is he not worthy, but he is not even able to express himself in a way that could give him a chance. Thus, the lover is set at a status in which the persona feels is out of his league. Consistent degradation can be depressing. “The rain ate the sun with chopsticks” (42).
As the sun is a symbol of happiness, and rain it’s antithesis, this juxtaposition illustrates the tedious yet progressive loss of happiness. However, this enveloping sadness is not solely due to the degradation felt upon comparing himself to his lover. The distance between the two is often expressed, and the separation from his loved one adds to the depression. The juxtaposition of “a river of sleds” explains this well (42). A river is ideal for travel, as it can be used to get from one place to another fairly quickly. Sleds, however, are entirely seasonal, and even useless if there is no snow. Thus this river of sleds is a number of methods of travel, all of which are not ideal to go see his loved one. Césaire explains the potency of the love despite everything forsaking it by the juxtaposition of “the alcohol of [her] breasts” (42). The comparison of her breasts and alcohol emphasizes the intoxicating nature behind her beauty and his love for her.
This allusion to intoxication is repeated by the persona’s thoughts, where “in my mind it is you the dazzling maguey of an undertow of eagles” (42). This juxtaposition emphasizes the wondrous nature on love while defining love as intoxicating once more. The undertow of eagles is the cyclical return and departure of a reminder of the lover’s majestic qualities, similar to an undertow in water. A maguey, however, is the plant used to make tequila, and thus the effects of these majestic memories of his lover are intoxicating. All of these comparisons can only be described as dream-like in nature. Juxtaposition is not the only dominant dream-like quality to this poem, however.
Césaire implemented bizarre imagery in order to maintain a strong dream-like quality to this poem. At one point, Césaire allows for the visualization of sound. “There are cicadas which deafen both their life and their death” (42). Cicadas are noisy insects, which make loud high-pitched noises during their mating season. The image where this sound overpowers their life and their death highlights their mating season as the most important part to their lives. When the mating season is labelled as that important, either love or lust is emphasized. The next image delves deeper: “the day blonde as bread” (42). Since the day is visualized as bright, the emphasis on happiness is evident. However, bread is not normally golden or blonde in colour. However, this image stresses the importance of the happiness he has with his lover, and with his memories of her.
This happiness gives him the sustenance that he needs to live. Although this image is somewhat clichéd, the impact is vital to this poem. It also opens the possibility that when he is without her, he is eating the memories of his day, and is finding himself stuck in reality’s sadness of night. This is furthered with “a river of sleds of women bathing” (42). Other women are mundane compared to his lover. His profound love supersedes the many other women in the world. Despite the allusion to the common quote “there are many fish in the sea”, he is hooked to this one in particular. However, “there is the rain putting its foot in its mouth” is a powerful image (42). His thoughts continue to remind him that he is not with her, and he dips into sadness before he can quell those thoughts. Love, for ill or good, is profound indeed.
In “The Automatic Crystal”, Aimé Césaire uses many surrealist elements to convey profound love. The mechanics, juxtaposition of love, and bizarre imagery are all surrealist by nature, and this dream-like quality allows for the illustration that love is profound. Without the surrealist elements this poem would not be able to convey the magnitude to which love is profound, if at all.