Regarding a Door
by David Antin
Most people look at walls and doors and find nothing poetic about either of them. David Antin is an exception. In the poem “Regarding a Door,” the speaker launches into a poetic and beautiful analysis of the deeper significance of doors and walls. According to the speaker of the poem, there is something interesting and special about doors. In order to emphasize how doors are special, the speaker uses walls and explains how doors and walls are different from each other and how doors are special. The speaker seems to be arguing that, while walls can offer safety, they don’t have the capacity to “open,” which makes doors the desirable choice.
First, the speaker says that a door is “open and shut, but less so than a wall,” which probably means that doors are more complex than walls. Walls can be good because they are “something to lean on,” meaning probably that they are strong and dependable and there is nothing mysterious and scary or dangerous about walls. A door, on the other hand, holds mystery and danger because you never know what can be behind a door. This is why it is unwise to lean on a door; you might just fall through into something scary. This seems unreal on the first reading but, when thinking about famous stories and movies, characters often get in trouble when they open the wrong door or go through a forbidden door without taking precautions. Just like the author says, by turning a knob you can step through a door and then you might find yourself in a new, strange, scary or even enchanting place. When you open a door, sometimes a new world opens up. Again, often in books and movies, even time traveling happens through doors so the speaker is right to emphasize how important stepping through doors can be.
In strong contrast with doors, the speaker mentions walls. While doors hold mystery and unlimited potential, a “wall is a wall wherever you are.” Again, the speaker has a good point because walls, everywhere in the world serve the same purpose: to keep people out from somewhere or to keep people inside somewhere. Even the Great Wall of China serves the same purpose as every other wall on the planet. Still, while walls may be boring and offer limited possibilities, the speaker acknowledges that walls have some good parts. The speaker calls walls “substantial,” which a very interesting choice of words because substantial can mean real, tangible, ample, large in size but also fundamental and of real value. The speaker seems to be saying that, if you want safety and security, walls are for you but you have to be warned that walls can get boring because they don’t offer much more than security. Still, the speaker might be also warning that walls are real and tangible while a door can swing either way or another, much like destiny.
Finally, the greatest difference between walls and doors is that walls don’t have “hinges.” The hinges make doors extremely special and so the speaker spends the last part of the poem talking about the wonder of hinges. Most people will spend their whole life never even thinking about the hinges of a door unless they squeak loudly enough to annoy them but this speaker seems to be obsessed with them. Hinges allow for movement but they also keep the doors in place. Still, the speaker seems to be focused more on the idea of movement than the idea of stillness. The hinges offer the door some movement meaning that the hinges allow doors to offer some opportunities when they are open. Walls are so “stuck,” ironically stuck because they are made of very firm materials such as bricks and plaster. These materials make walls boring and although they also make walls safe, the speaker doesn’t seem to be particularly attracted by the safety of walls. The speaker seems to love the “hinges” of doors, which could be a metaphor for the “hinges” of life: a door, like life, can swing either way so you never know what is behind it; you never know how a situation will turn out. This is probably why the speaker warns that hinges are like hidden conditions, like “small prints in contracts,” because they hold mystery and they could be the solution to all sorts of problems. Just like a contract with hidden clauses, not understanding or not paying attention to the hinges of a door can get you in real problem. So what does this mean? Maybe it just means that doors are able to swing either way, are able to change and able to adapt. Maybe the speaker says that people should be like doors: flexible, ready to change, open to whatever life has to offer. If the speaker says this, then he probably also says that people should not be like walls: they should not be closed minded, limited, inflexible and always looking for the “safe path” in life.
By David Antin
Thesis: The speaker uses doors and walls as two metaphors for the choices people can make in life. While doors are mysterious and could be dangerous, they also offer endless options because they are flexible but walls are sturdy and safe and they could offer comfort and stability.
Open and shut but less so than a wall
A door is unwise to lean on because it might open or close on you
Turning the knob you can go through a door and a new world can open up when you go through a door
A door can offer endless possibilities
Doors have hinges, which means they allow for movement, improvements, but also mistakes, mystery and danger
A wall is something to lean on; it is strong and dependable
A wall is a wall wherever you are which means that you can always count on it to be the same thing and offer no surprises
A wall is safe, “substantial,” which may mean that they are strong, large but also of some real value
Walls have no “hinges;” no hinges means no hidden secrets, no mystery, complete lack of movement
The speaker seems to be torn between choosing “doors” or “walls” in his life.