Transcript Thanatopsis - Mrs. Sullivan | English & Literature
By William Cullen Bryant
Thanatopsis: Literary Focus: Theme
The theme of a poem is what the poet is saying about life.
Usually poets do not state their themes directly.
– Instead, you have to think about what all the words, images, and figures of speech say to you.
– The subject of “Thanatopsis” is what happens to people when they die.
– What the poem says about this subject is its theme.
Thanatopsis: Reading Skill: Inverted Sentences
William Cullen Bryant often makes use of inversion, a rearrangement of the usual word
order in sentences.
The usual order of words in Standard English sentences is
subject, then verb, and then
object: Reika kicked the ball. An inverted order might be:
The ball Reika kicked.
If you have trouble understanding sentences in the poem, try rearranging the words.
William Cullen Bryant
William Cullen Bryant was a Romantic Poet.
In his time that title did not refer to a person who writes poetry about love.
– Instead, it referred to a poet who shows an emotional response to life.
– Romantic poets placed feelings above thought.
– They valued poetry and rural life above science and the city life.
– They believed that studying nature outdoors could bring as much truth to humans as doing scientific experiments.
– “Thanatopsis” is a nature poem in which Bryant presents his view (opsis, in Greek) of death (thanatos).
Thanatopsis: Poetic Form
The poetic form that Bryant uses for “Thanatopsis” is
If you look at the lines of the poem, you will see that the lines do not rhyme.
Most lines have the same number of syllables and a regular rhythm.
Thanatopsis: Into the Poem
William Cullen Bryant was in his late teens when he wrote his first draft of “Thanatopsis.” He was looking for answers to how to accept death.
He finds his answers in nature.
He observes that when we die, we become a part of nature, along with everyone else who has already died and everyone who will die.