Essay on Analysis Of The Poem ' Not Waving But Drowning '

Essay on Analysis Of The Poem ' Not Waving But Drowning '

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Depression is an epidemic in our society and a misunderstood one at that. Due to a lack of quality communication, countless people suffer in silence, believing that no one is listening to their cries for help; when their cries are finally heard, they are misinterpreted or ignored. The constant struggles faced by those with mental illnesses and society’s inability to understand those afflicted, are the two themes in Stevie Smith’s poem “Not Waving but Drowning”. The main character in the poem, the dead man, still yearns for the attention in death that he was denied in life, so that the true cause of his demise may be revealed.
The poem is a quatrain, meaning that each of the three stanzas has four lines. Additionally, the rhyming pattern of each stanza is a/b/c/b. Through the organization of the poem, Smith was able to demonstrate society’s inability or refusal to recognize signs of depression. The reader, unaware of what was truly happening, took the poem literally until the last two lines. That is where the reader remembers that being in deep water is an idiom meaning to be in trouble or in an incredibly difficult situation. The author incorporates the idioms ‘in deep water’ and ‘out in the cold’ into each stanza to allude to the man’s depression, but also to create an image of someone totally isolated, separated from their peers by nature’s best barricade.
The first stanza was interesting to read because the first two lines are from the perspective of a third person omniscient narrator, while the last two lines are the first person point of view of the dead man. This stanza has a tragic tone that is amplified by the author’s use of assonance. The words “Nobody” and “moaning” both have a long “O” sound that subtly represents t...


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...e meaning of that phrase. As discussed earlier, the reader must see past the literal drowning man trying desperately to call for help as his tired body struggles to stay afloat. The purpose if this poem is to showcase the importance of open and honest communication relating to mental illnesses. Stevie Smith is warning people with depression to quit messing around and come right out and tell someone what is going on. Signs of depression go overlooked because society is not willing to invest time and energy in solving other people’s problems. “Not Waving but Drowning” is an incredibly effective poem that shows what depression looks and feels like from both perspectives. Depression is a hard concept to grasp unless you have struggled with it yourself, but with improved communication and increased general knowledge about mental disorders, countless lives could be saved.

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