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by Thomas Hardy

Afterwards Theme of Mortality

In this poem, the speaker reflects on how he will be remembered after he is dead. Oddly, the poet never once uses the word "death" or "die" – go to "Symbols, Imagery, Wordplay" for some of the euphemisms and metaphors he uses to avoid saying the D-word. Thomas Hardy was getting old when he wrote this – he was 77 years old – and he was worried about how he was going to be remembered. Yes, this is heavy stuff. But never fear: there are other, less depressing, themes to look at if this one gets you too down in the dumps.

Questions About Mortality

  1. Why does the speaker use hypothetical statements (beginning with "If") to describe his death? Isn't death inevitable?
  2. Why does the speaker never use the word "death"? Why does he resort to euphemisms and metaphor to describe it?
  3. How many different ways of describing death does the speaker come up with?
  4. How do the different sense perceptions that are evoked in the poem (the beauty of the "glad green leaves," the "warm" summer night, and the sound of the "bell of quittance") impact the idea of impending death?

Chew on This

Try on an opinion or two, start a debate, or play the devil’s advocate.

The speaker of "Afterwards" uses euphemisms for "death" that suggest forward progression, rather than finality.

By starting the poem with the month of May, the poet suggests that the theme of death might be relieved by a springtime renewal.

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