Waiting for Icarus: The Faces of Love

Published 17 Feb 2017

Table of content


Waiting is an inevitable part of the daily life. One has to go to many kinds of waiting: for an examination result, for a friend’s answer to a written letter, for a call to a boss, for the daily allowance or salary, for the pizza delivery, for the lovely evening, or for the beautiful sunrise. Waiting is essential, as the old saying goes. As the famous author and poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson once asked in his writing: how much is time does one spent in his lifetime by merely waiting? But of all the waiting that one has done for all his lifetime, isn’t the waiting for the special someone the most romantic yet tedious waiting to do?


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Henry Van Dyke, an American short story writer, once said this famous line. Time is too slow for those who wait, too swift for those who fear, too long for those who grieve, too short for those who rejoice, but for those who love, time is eternity (Van Dyke 51). Can love really wait for eternity? This question is the same question that Muriel Rukeyser asks in her poem “Waiting for Icarus”. Several views about love and waiting can be seen throughout this poem, most of which reflects the reality of loving, the reality of life.

Review of Related Literature.

An essay written about this poem and posted in peerpapers.com relates waiting and loving very well. It says that because the narrator of the poem, most possibly Icarus’ girlfriend, loves Icarus greatly, she does not notice how time pass by easily. “As a true lover, Icarus’ girlfriend does not even notice time.” We can also relate this statement to the quote from Van Dyke mentioned earlier, because love is too great, it is definitely willing to wait until eternity.

However, love, as seen through the speaker of the poem, lies beyond waiting alone. Besides waiting, she also shows signs of “worrying.” The article suggests that “She is terribly worried about Icarus…”

More than the idea of love and waiting, the poem, according to the article, also shows concern and fear. The essay expresses how in loving, one will be constantly wondering about the welfare of the loved one. Lastly, this first essay reflects the relationship between loving and longing. It says: “…it is easy to see how much she misses her lover…”

The speaker of the poem really shows, through her words, how much she longs for Icarus. She waits as much as she can because she longs for her love, and as long as she loves Icarus, she can wait until eternity. Another essay, posted in megaessays.com, shows how promises are significant in loving. According to the essay, the speaker of the poem gets close to her lover because of the promises that his lover gave her. While she is waiting, she reminisces about the promises he made to her and about how he confided his dreams and ambitions to her. These promises and confidences made her feel close and special to him. In this passage, we can infer two ideas about love according to the author’s analysis of the poem. First, Icarus’ lover is able wait for Icarus for such a long time because she feeds her mind of the promises that Icarus gave her. It means that the essential part in waiting for a loved ones lies within the memories shared. Second, the promises is essential in loving, it serves as the fuel of love, just like in the poem. Icarus’ lover got close to Icarus because of the promises given to her.

The essay also suggest another angle of the story: the angle of the Man, referred to as Icarus in the poem. The article says “In the title “Waiting for Icarus,” Icarus symbolizes men who run away from their relationships.”

It suggests that Icarus does not necessarily refer to the man in the myth, Icarus, who flew with his father, Daedalus, but has disobeyed his father and drowned in the ocean. Instead, Icarus reflects every man who makes promises to their loved ones, not necessarily a girl, but in the end, running away from those promises. In a conclusion, this second essay reflects that, in the relationship where the speaker is in, Icarus is the man who escaped from his responsibility and the speaker is the girl who is left waiting and holding on to broken promises.

Critical Perspective: Formalist Perspective Analyzing the story from the formalist point of view, we can infer that the speaker in the poem represents all of those who wait for their lovers and Icarus in the poem represents all that is loved. The setting of the poem is in the beach where the girl is prompt by Icarus to wait for him. Because the girl is unsure whether she is waiting for Icarus for one whole day, we can infer that the time could have been late in the afternoon or just before the sun sets. The characters in the poem are the speaker, preferably a girl, and someone he is waiting for, could have been her lover, and as the title suggests, a lover of the name of Icarus. The girl, having no particular name, can easily be inferred to reflect all the girls who love. The poem can be spoken by any kind of girl who loves, has been given promises, waits, and suddenly realizes that they could have been waiting in vain all those times. The one, who is waited, on the other hand, may symbolize all those who is loved.

The name of the character in the title, Icarus, is an allusion from the Greek mythology. Icarus is the son of the famous inventor, Daedalus. Two of them are jailed in the tower of the labyrinth. In order to escape prison and death, Daedalus created wings made from wax and bird feathers. They used these wings to soar to the sky and fly away from their prison. However, because the wings are made up of wax alone, Daedalus warned his son not to go too near from the sun because the heat might melt the wax and the wings might loose its feathers. Icarus did not heed to his father’s warnings and instead, enjoyed flying too much that he flew as close to the sun as possible. Because of this, his wings got broken and he drowned in the sea. This story can be inferred to reflect love. Icarus, the lover, ventures on love too much that by the time he realizes that he is flying too close to what he can only handle, it is too late and he is already falling down into the big sea of hopelessness.

The language used in the story is conversational English. It resembles an entry of a girl’s diary or a stream of consciousness that runs in her thought. Since the speaker uses informal language such as “cringe before his father” and “a trashy lot”, the reader gets to feel that the speaker is talking to them. They can easy grasp the feeling that the speaker wants to imply. Moreover, they can easily relate to what the speaker is feeling because the words used are conversational and can easily be understood. The meaning that can be conveyed in the poem is direct. It reflects the girl expressing his sentiments about his lover who promises her a lot of things but has left her empty handed. However, different readers of the poem can have different understanding of the poem, depending on how deep they can venture between the words used in the poem. Different levels of meaning lies in the poem, depending on how readers understand it.

Analysis The poem “Waiting for Icarus” is a story that reflects several faces of love. It reflects waiting, hoping, and realizing. Waiting. The poem, as superficially seen, is about a girl who waits for her lover. “I have been waiting all day, or perhaps longer.” The girl who loves waits, and faithfully waits as her love tells him too. This, is the first face of love, waiting faithfully and honestly. Hoping. The speaker in the poem has too many hopes and wishes that can be seen in the poem. First of these are the hopes that all those that her family and friends say about her love is false. He wishes that Icarus proves false what her mother said to her that he only wants to get away from her and that inventors, like Icarus are, do not keep their promises. “I remember they said he only wanted to get away from me I remember mother saying: Inventors are like poets, a trashy lot.” She also hopes that the girls who make fun of her, thinking that she is waiting in vain, will be proved false.

Lastly, she wished for a chance to try what her lover had tried. When she said “I would have liked to try those wings myself,” it can be inferred that she wants to have the courage to try other things, have other experiences, rather that locking herself to a love that she is not sure if is worth her waiting.

“He said he would be back and we’d drink wine together.” This line is full of hopes from the speaker of the girl for his lover to return and bring back the happy times that both of them has shared. She holds on to the promise that once her lover has returned, things are already better and that “everything would be better than before.”

“He said we were on the edge of a new relation.” This line foreshadows the affection their relationship. By saying that their love is on the edge of a new relation, it can mean only two ideas: either their relationship will improve or is better to end that way.

“He said he would never again cringe before his father.” This, is the start of the many promises that her lover has given her. Her mere listing of these promises creates an illusion that she hopes that these promises will become realities once her loved one has returned. The lines that followed are addition to the list of promises. “He said that he was going to invent full-time/ He said he loved me that going into me.”

“He said was going into the world and the sky.” In this line, the fault of the one being waited can be reflected. He said he was going somewhere, fulfilling some dreams that the girl is not included. However, the girl continues to hope and trust her love.

“He said all the buckles were very firm/ He said the wax was the best wax ” In these lines, it can be inferred that the boy is quite sure of where he is going. He is sure that whatever it is that he is about to do, he will accomplish it very well. He is too proud of himself.

“He said Wait for me here on the beach.” Here is another promise that the boy has given: a promise that he will return while the next line, “He said Just don’t cry” expresses that the boy still loves the girl, still cares for her.

Finally, love is more of realizations. And there are numerous realizations that can be inferred from this poem.

“I remember the gulls and the waves
I remember the islands going dark on the sea”

This shows how long the girl has waited, probably all her life, until the sun sets and darkens the hopes of the girl. When all the lights and the hope that the speaker of the poem has vanished, she realizes that the boy will never return anymore.

“I remember the girls laughing
I remember they said he only wanted to get away from me
I remember mother saying : Inventors are like poets, a trashy lot
I remember she told me those who try out inventions are worse”

This lines add up to the realizations of the girl that she could have been wrong. That the boy she loved with all her life will never return. And finally, she realized: “I remember she added : Women who love such are the Worst of all” that she stupid for believing in everything that the guy said, just because she loves too much.

“I have been waiting all day, or perhaps longer.
I would have liked to try those wings myself.
It would have been better than this.”

This reflects the girl’s decision to embark on her own journey, to start anew, take wings, and search again for a new life, a new love that could have been better than what they have in the present.


In the end, it can be concluded that there are many faces of love as there are many faces in this earth. Each of us loves as unique as how our individualities are, but however we love, we cannot escape the fact that once in our life, we wait, we hope, and we realize a lot.

Works Cited

  • Thingexist.com. July 24, 2008. Thinexist. July 24, 2008.
  • Van Dyke, Henry. The Poems of Henry Van Dyke. New York: Hard Press, 2006.
  • Rukeyser, Muriel. Collected Poems Of Muriel Rukeyser. Pittsburg: U of Pittsburg, 2005.
  • Peerpapers.com. July 24, 2008. Peerpaper. July 24, 2008.
  • Mega Essays.com. July 24, 2008. Mega Essays LLC. July 24, 2008.
  • Caraway, James. Mediterranean Perspectives: Literature, Social Studies and Philosophy. Buckinghamshire. 2000.
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