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Themes

Teasdale doesn't mention happiness directly in "Barter," but we can certainly see it's meant to be a byproduct of the loveliness that she's peddling: Buy some loveliness, and we'll throw in jumbo-sized happiness absolutely free! Let's take a closer look at how that sales pitch works in the context of the poem.

Questions About Happiness

  1. Is this a happy poem? If it is, what makes it feel happy (consider content and structure)? If you don't get a sense of happiness from it, what do you feel?
  2. Imagine you are Teasdale's evil twin. You only write negative, dark verse. You are going to write a brooding response to her happy poem. What would life be selling? "Life has blank to sell." Try to pick out a couple nice, dark, negative images to use in your poem as well.
  3. Do you think it is easier to create images that evoke sadness or happiness? Why? How do you think Teasdale would answer this question, based on the poem?

Chew on This

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

If "Barter" doesn't make you happy, you should seek help. Something might be broken.

Barter is a much more complex poem than it appears at first glance. It isn't just a cute little poem about pretty things.

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