Essay on Thanatopsis by William Cullen Bryant

842 Words 4 Pages
The poem “Thanatopsis” by William Cullen Bryant reveals a very unusual aspect of nature. While most people think of nature as beauty and full of life, Bryant takes a more interesting approach to nature. He exposes a correlation between nature, life, death, and re-birth. Using nature as a foothold, Bryant exercises methods such as tone, setting, and imagery in a very intriguing way while writing “Thanatopsis.”
First, tone is a very important aspect of the poem “Thanatopsis.” While reading the poem, the reader may feel a slight change in the tone of the poem. At first the poem seems as though it were about nature and its beauty. For example, in the poem Bryant writes “She has a voice of gladness, and a smile/And eloquence of beauty, and she
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By the end of the poem there is another shift in tone. The tone takes on a more hopeful meaning. Now, Bryant uses the spring season to compare to a new age. He mentions, “The youth in life's green spring, and he who goes/ In the full strength of years, matron, and maid,/ The bow'd with age, the infant in the smiles.”(68-70) The rebirth of human life compares to nature in the sense that when nature is reborn in springtime everything turns green. The reader ends the poem with an enlightened sense of feeling instead of the dark and gloomy feeling they felt at the beginning of the poem.
Another technique that Bryant uses in “Thanatopsis” is setting. This entire poem takes place somewhere in nature. However, when both aspects of the poem are looked into, the poem may also take place in the speakers mind. The speaker is using nature as a way to think about death. In a way, it seems as though nature will help make death more understandable. Bryant’s “Thanatopsis” contains specific details: Go forth under the open sky, and list/ To Nature’s teachings, while from all around--/ … /--Comes a still voice”(14-17) There are many key words in this single thought. “Go forth under the open sky” means when one dies and ascends upon heaven. Another key phrase is “Nature’s teachings.” It is what nature has to teach about death to help the speaker understand the concept of death. Also, it sets the theme for the entire poem. In lines 16 and 17 when
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