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A Writer's Approach to Death

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A Writer's Approach to Death

Although death seems to be a theme for many literary poems, it also appears to be the most difficult to express clearly. Webster’s Dictionary defines the word “death” as, “A permanent cessation of all vital function: end of life.” While this definition sounds simple enough, a writer’s definition goes way beyond the literal meaning. Edwin Arlington Robinson and Robert Frost are just two examples of poetic writers who have used death successfully as the main theme of their works. Robinson, in the poem “Richard Cory,” and Frost in his poem, “Home Burial,” present death in different ways in order to invoke different feelings and emotions from their readers.

In his poem “Richard Cory,” Edwin Arlington Robinson uses death to shock the reader. He places the statement of this theme (death) very wisely in the last line of the poem. This not only catches the reader off guard but peaks their interest as well. Throughout the poem, he paints this beautiful picture of a very wealthy and admired gentleman. He speaks of this man’s “king-like” qualities and how everyone in town looks up to him with hopes of one day possibly achieving his status. Robinson never gives a hint or any reason what so ever for the reader to assume the theme of this poem has anything at all to do with death. Then, out of the blue, the main character Richard Cory kills himself. Robinson’s choice to make the death a suicide also adds to the readers “shock factor.” They are never going to expect this perfect gentleman to go and put a gun to his head and take his own life. This not only surprises the reader, but leaves them asking the question why. Why would this man who and anything and everything do this to himself? R...

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... Robinson gives you a mental image then blows it to pieces. While Frost, write a long, drawn-out poem which is very detailed but at the same time confusing. His wording causes readers to stumble over sentences. This causes the reader to become frustrated, allowing them to somewhat experience the frustration the couple in “Home Burial” is going through themselves.

Someone reading these poems might quickly jump to the conclusion that since they both use death as their theme, they are the same. However, after closer examination, they will find that the theme is actually one of the few things these two poems have in common. Robinson and Frost took one Webster’s definition, went beyond the literary meaning, and ended up with two totally different but appealing masterpieces. They are textbook examples every writer should follow when trying to approach a theme.
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