by James Wright
A Blessing Theme of Isolation
"It's not easy being green." Even if you're not a frog like Kermit, there have probably been times when you felt like one. The loneliness that comes from feeling left out is one of life's hardest emotions. As a teenager, James Wright suffered a mental breakdown and missed an entire year of high school. Though he eventually found success and happiness, he struggled with bouts of mental illness throughout his adult life. So it's not surprising to discover themes of isolation in his poetry. In "A Blessing," Wright acknowledges the reality of "loneliness" but doesn't dwell on it, focusing instead of the moments of grace that release us from the solitary confinement of living inside our own heads.
Questions About Isolation
- Extroverts crave plenty of social interaction, while introverts often find solitude refreshing. Do you think you're more of an extrovert or an introvert? Why? Think of a time when you felt lonely. What helped you feel better? How does that compare to the speaker's experience in the poem?
- Do you think animals are capable of feeling loneliness? Why or why not? What do you think the speaker in "A Blessing" meant by the line, "There is no loneliness like theirs"?
- Do you think religious or spiritual beliefs can ease loneliness? Why do you think so? Do you think that the speaker in "A Blessing" is lonely? Why or why not?
- Do you think the speaker has a spiritual experience during the course of the poem? Why or why not?
Chew on This
The barbed wire fence in "A Blessing" suggests that industrial society has permanently altered human consciousness, isolating mankind from the natural world. The speaker's action of stepping over the fence is merely temporary. It's a nice try and all, but ultimately the speaker remains mentally detached from the mysterious beauty of the pastoral setting.
The speaker in "A Blessing" overcomes the isolating effects of industrial society by stepping across the barbed wire fence into a mysterious world of nature. In that setting, the speaker experiences a spiritual vision of the connectedness of all things. Far out.