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? Robinson’s “shocking” approach in a way, makes the idea of death less painful to bare than usual. He ends the poem with the death, choosing to leave out the reaction it might cause. This seems to make the reader accept the fact of death much easier than if they were to read what pain it might have caused others.
Robert Frost however, approaches the theme of death in his poem “Home Burial,” in a totally different matter. Instead of leaving the death for the last line, he focuses on the aftermath left behind after death has occurred. In Frost’s poem, the reader actually gets to see the pain death can sometimes cause, instead of being left with...