“Two Scavengers in a Truck, Two Beautiful People in a Mercedes” a poem by American poet, Lawrence Fernlinghetti. In this poem, he showed an insignificant, everyday incident – a meeting of a garbage truck and “an elegant open Mercedes” – to make reader think about the important issue of the differences between social classes. Two pairs of people meet together in downtown San Francisco as they were stopped by a red traffic light. The poem describes their meeting: Two garbage men are returning from their work, all dirty and “grungy” and an elegant young couple, perfectly clean on their way to work. Fernlinghetti by using colours, an extended metaphor and vivid descriptions emphasis as the huge social gap between these two pairs who normally would not meet in everyday life but have been brought together by this incident.Order now
The garbage truck is “bright yellow” and garbage men wear “red plastic blazer” and here Fernlinghetti uses primary colours to show simplicity of garbage men’s work. The material which is used for men’s clothing suggests they clothing is cheap and uncomfortable. The first man is an old man with “grey iron hair”, a hunched back and gargoyle appearance. Fernlinghetti names this old guy “Quasimodo” to illustrate his appearance as it is a reference to a well-known story about Notre Dame’s bell-ringer. The second garbage men is a young man with long hair and sunglasses.
The elegant Mercedes is driven by a young man, about the same age as the younger scavenger and he also has long hair and wears sunglasses. In addition he wears “a hip three-piece linen suit”. Lien is a comfortable, expensive material and is used to show the wealth of this man. A young blonde woman sitting in the Mercedes is “causally coifed” and wears a short skirt with coloured stockings.
Fernlinghetti shows the reader the huge contrast in the standard of living between these two couples and way that they live. All four live in the same city but are worlds apart, however, they still rely on each other. Without garbage men, an elegant couple would live in an environment surrounded by large amounts of waste. Without the elegant couple, garbage men would have no people to work for.
The expression describing blonde women as “casually coifed” is an oxymoron. “Coifed” suggests a hairdresser spent long hours on creating hair so stylish to make young woman stand out even if wearing casual skirt with coloured stockings. The hardness of garbage men’s life style is suggested by referring them to “two scavengers”. Fernlinghetti also creates an enormous contrast by comparing the older scavenger’s “grey iron hair” with the perfect hair of the young woman. Also, the “gargoyle Quasimodo” appearance of older garbage men shows his ugliness and contrasts with the woman’s beauty.
He continues the comparisons between two couples and now Fernlinghetti develops the similarities between the younger “scavenger” and the Mercedes’s driver. Both are wearing sunglasses, long hair and want to be fashionable but that is all they have in common. As the garbage men “glaze down” at the “cool couple” they dream about: wealth, having a fashionable life style and driving a Mercedes. They are probably convinced that they will never be like the young couple and can only dream, in the words of Fernlinghetti: “as if they were watching some odorless TV ad”. However the Mercedes couple continue to ignore garbage men: they mean nothing to them and are not a
In the last part of poem, Lawrence Fernlinghetti develops an extended metaphor and compares the world to a sea and the social gap between two couples to a small gulf. He does so to set blame on the ideas on democracy and the government for “expanding” the social gap rather than “closing” it. “Two Scavengers in a Truck, Two Beautiful People in a Mercedes” was written to make his readers think about their own lives and their own role in the society. Lawrence Fernlinghetti’s writing skill allowed him to turn an everyday life’s incident into a thought-provoking short poem.