Not Waving but Drowning, by Stevie Smith

Not Waving but Drowning, by Stevie Smith

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“Nobody heard him, the dead man, / but still he lay moaning:” This is how many people go on through life. Many are dying inside but you would never know. It is possible for people to create masks to hide their emotions. Sometimes these masks are so deceptive that even close friends or family members cannot see through then until it is too late. In Stevie Smith’s poem, “Not Waving but Drowning” the writer effectively highlights how someone’s cry for help can be mistaken for joy. It is important for people to at least have someone who cares about them and knows them well enough to see when something is going wrong in their lives. This can often be the lifeline that saves one from drowning.

Recently I learned firsthand how deceptive these masks could be. Someone that I know but that I was not really close to took his own life this past week. On the outside he seemed like a happy person. He had a lot of ‘boys’ and everyone seemed to know him. But could it be that something was going on inside that no one knew about? “Poor chap, he always loved larking / and now he’s dead / It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way, / they said.”(Lines 5-9) This is how it was with his guy, everyone cold only speculate why he would kill himself because none of them knew anything except that he was a fun guy to be around. It’s a shame that it takes something as drastic as suicide to make people even wonder if people have conflicts going on inside them that can be extremely detrimental to them. As the speaker states, “Oh no no no, it was too cold always, / … / I was to far out all my life” (lines 10-12). Only a true friend would know this and like the man I referred to earlier it can be assumed that the man in the poem had no true friends.

Many people in this world have no true friends and those that do have very few. A true friend could have seen that something was not right with this man. Perhaps the first speaker in the poem thinks that he was closer to the second then he actually was.

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But actually, according to the second speaker “[He] was out much further than you thought / and not waving but drowning” (lines 3-4). I true friend would have known the difference. I’m not saying that true friends are psychic when it comes to their friends but I am saying that when you are close to someone you are able to see through their ask more easily than a casual acquaintance would. People who are dying inside usually give warning signs that something is not right with them but you often do realize it until something tragic happens.

The hardest thing for friends and relatives of people who kill themselves is when they realize that the one that died ha been trying to tell them that something was wrong but they either brushed it off and disregarded it as a joke or never paid attention at all. The man in the poem was crying out for help, but those observing brushed it off as if he was waving at them. The sad thing is they never bothered to ask. If only they had asked instead of assuming, the man may not have died. It is the same with those that commit suicide. All they need is for someone to ask them what’s wrong. They are begging for someone to take the rope from around their neck but instead their friends just walk on by.

Every years thousands of people kill themselves and the story is all ways the same. “Why didn’t he/she tell me?” they say. But it always hurts the most when they realize that they were trying to tell them for a long time but they chose not to listen. Yes, some people wear darker masks then others and no matter how much of a good friend you are, they wouldn’t open up to you, but in most cases the signs are there. All these people need is someone to stop them from dying but to often they never find that.
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