Analysis of ‘Choices’ by Robert Stone


CHECKPOINT Stage 9 – Course Book – Page 82

Stanza 1

The first stanza states how the persona thought he had a choice when he was young. And he explains how he made certain choices when he was younger. When he says ‘some young me,’ it hints at how he has evolved. He is not the same person who made those decisions. In the past he was someone else. In the present, now looking back on it, he is a different person, even though he is called by the same name. This reflects the reality that each person goes through changes every second.

The third line says that the choices he made in the past has made him who he is now: ‘and so became the me.’ The verb ‘became’ points to the process of time. Time changes us. Everything and everyone changes constantly. As Shakespeare wrote ‘Nature’s changing course untrimmed.’ The persona realizes: ‘became the me.’ ‘That now is sung’ captures the existence of the speaker in a musical metaphor, an auditory imagery. The persons life as it is, is described as a melody. The highs and the lows, the major and the minor, the rise and fall and the shifting cadences of song. A sr imple yet profound image to capture the bittersweetness of life.

The person the speaker has become is due to the choices made. In the last line, the speaker notes that he cannot change the choices he has made. The other possibilities that could have been in his life if he made different choices in his life are not available to him. Those are not his experience or reality. Therefore, ‘the me from whom all other pasts are hid.’ He cannot imagine, comprehend or calculate any of the other possibilities that could have been. The past he has created for himself is the only past that he will be able to claim.

Stanza 2

Now we come to the present. This very day: Today. “Will be deciding what I do” is written in future continuous. Something yet to happen, but something bound to happen inevitably. When he takes the decisions of today, those choices will ‘become the me that chose this way.’ Whatever he decides will determine what he will become in the future. But the key factor in this stanza is that unlike the first, he has control of the choices he can make in the present. The first stanza was about how the choices in the past will determine where he is at present. But now, he has agency, decision-making power which can influence his path in the future. Yet, with every choice he makes in the present, there will once again be many futures that he will be unable to conceive. Those possible futures that he will not experience will never be able to give him any clue, or any advise on what choices to make.

Stanza 3

The third stanza points to the future: ‘choices still to come.’ This is not today, but in the future. Not the present. And ‘me to be,’ as in the person that he is going to become after he has made all those choices, will have to claim responsibility of all the decisions he has made. ‘And so remain the me,’ indicates how he will be the sum of all his choices. There will be no change, no magic, no alternative – his choices will decide where and who he will be. And this is the person who will hear the drum – the last parade approaching. Death, when it arrives, will be experienced by ‘me’ whose choices has taken him upon a certain trail of experiences. When death arrives, where he will be, what he will be, will all be determined by the choices/decisions he made throughout his life. Beyond the choices he took, there is no other life he will have to claim. The drum is auditory imagery and the last parade is both visual and auditory.

Final Couplet

The final lines emphasize that the speaker will not hear anything other than the particular drummer who plays for his own departure from life. The drummer who, in a way, plays the beats which capture his life – from the first choice he made to the last. The poem in a way identifies that there might have been so many different outcomes that could have been possible if the choices he made were different. But, he will not be able to hear those drums, those rhythms. He will only hear what he has set up for himself. No other times, no other possible futures or pathways will he be able to know…

STANZA 1 – The poem speaks of how the PAST choices has brought you to you present, and how you can never change the past.

STANZA 2 – The choices you make in the PRESENT will determine what your future will turn out to be.

STANZA 3 – Even in the FUTURE, after the choices you have made, you will have even more choices to make.

Eventually, it will be your choices which would determine what kind of life you would have led when the claws of death emerge from the darkness to surround you with its cold embrace…

ACTIVITIES for Students.

  • Note the tenses used in the 1,2,3 stanzas. How do they change?
  • Draw a diagram which begins with one choice, but branches out in different directions with the different choices given!

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