We Are Seven By William Wordsworth Essay

We Are Seven By William Wordsworth Essay

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William Wordsworth’s poem “We are Seven” from his Lyrical Ballads explores the complex theme of death through its effects on the living and the ways in which people think of those they have lost. The narrative is composed of a conversation between an adult male speaker and an eight-year-old girl, with the central focus on the girl’s two deceased siblings. Throughout the ballad, the young girl is insistent that despite two of her siblings having passed, they are seven in total – contrasting with the speaker, who is confident that the girl’s deceased siblings make her one of five. In this respect, Wordsworth demonstrates extensive use of perspectivism, which is crucial to the poem’s development, as it highlights the different outlooks that children and adults have on death. While social knowledge often upholds the belief that adults are more knowledgeable than children, “We are Seven” asks its readers to evaluate which of the characters has the superior understanding of life and death. An analysis of the adult speaker and young girl’s polar perspectives on death in “We are Seven” challenges the adult/child dichotomy – revealing that through her positive and imaginative approach to honouring the dead, the young girl has a greater understanding of the meaning of death.
For the duration of “We are Seven,” the male speaker undermines the young girl’s outlook on mortality, which conveys his pessimistic and narrow-minded perspective on death. To begin, the speaker is highly dismissive towards the girl in questioning “A simple child … what should it know of death?” (Wordsworth 1-4). In this statement, the speaker establishes himself as the all-knowing adult, and subsequently depersonalizes and objectifies the young girl. Next, after havi...


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...e of seven siblings emphasizes her greater understanding of death, and the speaker’s lack thereof.
In “We are Seven,” Wordsworth uses perspectivism to highlight the varying notions of death through the eyes of an adult and a child, implying that the young girl’s joy and respect towards her deceased siblings makes her wiser than the adult speaker. Throughout the ballad, both characters quarrel over whether the girl should consider herself one of five siblings, or one of seven. In one sense, both the adult and child are correct in their respective methods of counting siblings. However, it is the young girl’s optimistic perspective on death which proves that though a child, her superior knowledge exceeds that of the adult. Through her clever understanding of death, the girl emphasizes the importance of remembrance – suggesting that you never lose the people you love.

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