menu

An Analysis of "Ode to Salt" by Pablo Neruda


From some of the world's most intense love poetry to odes glorifying socks and salt, Pablo Neruda's works have positioned him as one of South America's greatest writers. A Chilean who aligned himself with the Communist party, Neruda examined the intricacies of life during the mid-1900s. A study of "Ode to Salt" yields a passionate analysis of an everyday element. This dichotomy is one of Neruda's strong points. He is able to reverence the holy history of an element but also illuminate its simplicity.

Content

The poem glorifies the history of salt, and shows its importance. Tone, the author's attitude toward what he is writing about, is conveyed with simplicity. The author is respectful of and inspired by salt. He writes, "Preserver/of the ancient/holds of ships," to express the long history of salt and its necessity. The last line also shows awe: "in it, we taste finitude." Neruda is saying that salt holds much detail about the finite world.

Language

Language is paramount in this poem. Neruda uses alliteration, the repeated beginning sound in words, to create musicality. He writes, "it sings/salt sings, the skin/of the salt mines/sings" and "I shivered in those/solitudes." The repeated "s" sound highlights the same sound in the word "salt," and brings a cadence to the reader's ear. Neruda uses very simple words to convey the integral importance of something so basic as salt. He also highlights adjectives such as "mournful," "translucent" and "piquant."

Imagery

Neruda uses many poetic tools to create imagery. Personification, giving human qualities to inanimate objects, is found in several places. He personifies the salt by saying "In its caves/the salt moans." Neruda also creates symbolism by saying "Dust of the sea, in you/the tongue receives a kiss/from ocean night." This symbolism speaks of the history and interconnectedness of the world.

Form

Neruda uses the ode form, lyric poetry that highlights emotion and showcases a fervent study of its subject. Neruda writes in free verse, and many of his lines are extremely short. Many of his one-word lines are prepositions such as "on," "upon" or "of," which suggests that the relationship between salt and the world is important. It borders on a shape poem -- the words are sprinkled vertically on the page, as the salt is sprinkled from a shaker.

About the Author

Kathryne Bradesca has been a writing teacher for more than 15 years. She has also contributed to newspapers and magazines such as "The Morning Journal" and "The Ignatius Quarterly." Bradesca received a master's degree in teaching from Kent State University.

Photo Credits
  • George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images