Upside Down | Summary & Analysis

Summary of Upside-Down by Alexander Kushner                            

Upside Down is a humorous poem by Alexander Kushner. The central character of the poem is a boy whose name is Upside Down. A weird name. He acts in an eccentric way. He makes everything upside–down. The whole poem is about his behaviour which evokes humour. Due to his crazy behaviour, he becomes a laughingstock in his society. He does not fit into society, He is not considered an anti-social character. But he could not mingle with all as behaves humorously. He also appears to be a sympathetic character, as he expresses his loneliness as a result of his behaviour.

About the Writer: Alexander Kushner

Alexander Semyonovich Kushner is a Russian poet from Saint Petersburg. He was born on 14th September 1936. He published about 15 collections of poetry and two books of his essays. In 1945 he became a member of the Writer’s Union.  He does not write in free verse and tries to elaborate a new poetic form. Translation of Kushner’s poetry into English Italian and Dutch was published in book form. Several of his poems were translated into German, French, Japanese, Hebrew, Czech and Bulgarian. He is also known as one of the best lyrical poets of the 20th century.  He gives universal messages through his poems.  One of the most appreciated works is Upside Down which gives awareness to society to accept reality.

Detail Analysis of Upside Down

In the first stanza, the main character is introduced as a Jester. He is called Upside Down.   He does everything in the opposite way. All the people comment about him. He becomes the talk of the town. He is one of the major attractions of society.   His behaviour makes him a rebellious character.

In the second stanza, the poet portrays the main character as a person who cannot understand simple things in life like how and why a boat is floating on water. The poet leaves it to the readers to judge – whether to laugh or to feel sympathy for this character. Through a jumbled rhyming pattern the poet questions the people and brings out their opinions

The poet refers to the hero as a dunderhead. It means a foolish person. He calls him so because of his way of life which lacks discipline and order. He writes the word “Ton” and reads it as “not”. All are in reverse order. This kind of behaviour could be seen in some people who suffer from mental imbalance.  To cure such people certain treatments will be done in reverse order to check, their mental capacity. This poem may be a message to society to look at such people who have a strange behaviour with sympathy and to help them to come out of their weakness. It is our responsibility to support them not to laugh at them.

Again in the fourth stanza, the poet brings out his innocence in this stanza.  He wades across rivers when there is a bridge to cross. It might make others laugh at him. But the poet wants society to think deeply about some people who suffer from phobias around them. If one thinks too deeply about such people it won’t make us laugh. It would make us feel for such people. The poem is ironically humorous. He seems to do and behave in reverse order and repeats the same thing. But the entire poem gives a different message to society. Society should think of such people who are afraid of phobias.

In the fifth stanza of the poem, in this time Upside Down enters a restaurant and asks for a pair of socks with clocks on them. These could not be available in restaurants. This weird behaviour may anger people or make people think badly of him. But Upside-Down enjoys it when others look at him. May he like to see people getting irritation because of his disorderly behaviours?

This stanza says about the views of people on Upside Down. All who came to enjoy the circus, now enjoy the funny behaviour of being upside down.  Why does he want all to laugh at him? Does he enjoy or does he wants to forget about his pain?

In this stanza, the poet brings out the unstable mindset of being Upside Down. Because he is not sure and ready to read the letter which is from his aunt. He stammers and shivers to read the letter. The rhyming pattern refers that he is not ready to read the letter as he is not steady enough to focus on the contents of the letter. The situation of the character makes the readers feel for him.  Maybe the poet wants us to feel for such weak people.

He glances at the letter and reads the advice of his aunty, she mentions a few of his misbehaviours such as the way he wears flannels during hot seasons and going naked when it is not hot, and she requests the boy

Upside –Down to behave with discipline. She advises him to stop annoying others with his funny behaviours. She ends the letter by saying to behave properly if he wants society to respect him. The poet in these two stanzas gives expectations of society.   Society expects and respects decency and disciplined behaviour. If anyone goes against the social norms people would laugh at them.

The poet wants to feel sympathy for some people who live with phobias, people who suffer from mental weakness. But society cannot tolerate and support people who do to get attraction and enjoy annoying others.

Literary Devices

The poem follows a simple pattern 2nd and 7th stanzas follow ABAB and other stanzas follow AABB

Language is simple and in narrative style.

The tone of the poem is humorous sometimes and Ironic most of the time. The theme of the whole poem is the view of society on those who behave in disorder. Society considers them a misfit. They expect social norms to be followed. One cannot annoy society for a longer period. Society could seal you and throw you out easily. It is our life that makes others respect or throws out.

Thus the main character Upside-Down is both funny and sympathetic. His behaviour should wake not only laughter or humour but also sympathy. He is a misfit in society. But he could not help himself. The poet wants us to think deeply, about what we could do to such characters. To support them to fight with their weakness to come out, or to ignore them and laugh at them and label them as “Misfit?”  the poet’s message in this poem is universal and thought-provoking.