Wislawa Szymborska Analysis

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Wislawa Szymborska’s Perception on Human’s Place in the Universe

“Microcosmos”, by Wislawa Szymborska, explains how understanding bacteria expanded human’s understanding of the universe. Throughout the poem, she draws comparison between how small humans are in the vastness of the universe, and how bacteria are so small compared to humans. Szymborska depicts human existence as insignificant when compared to the massive scale of the universe in her poem, “Microcosmos”. The title, “Microcosmos”, is itself an oxymoron which describes how learning about bacteria enlarged human’s understanding of their small place in the universe. The prefix “micro” denotes smallness, whereas the root “cosmos” refers to an entire solar system, much larger than human civilization. Thus, “microcosmos” describes how there can be a world comparable to the size of a solar system far smaller than Earth, which contradicts the denotations of smallness and a large system. This oxymoron reflects how the cosmos of bacteria was so much smaller than the cosmos of humans, just as humans are but the size of bacteria when looking at the universe.
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Through the use of caesura, and then a nonsense word regarding the increase of population of bacteria, Szymborska establishes how meaningless reproducing is for humans: “they double and triple unobstructed, / with room to spare, willy-nilly” (15-16). Szymborska uses the comma before the nonsense word “willy-nilly” to pause to complete the thought, but then trivializes the observation with the use of “willy-nilly”. The contradiction between the serious thought about how much bacteria can multiply and still not be seen by the human eye and the comical use of “willy-nilly” downplays the significance of the population increase, just as humans will remain on the speck called Earth even if our population
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