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Analysis

Valley of Death

Symbol Analysis

The valley of Death is the first major visual image we get, and it haunts the whole poem. The valley is the setting, the place where the charge takes place, but it doesn't quite seem to exist in the real world. It feels supernatural. We imagine dusty, baked earth, vultures circling overhead, maybe some evil laughter. OK, that's probably too much, but you get the idea, right? A super-nasty spot.

  • Line 3: This is the first mention of that spooky valley. It's a really strong poetic image. It lets us know we're not just reading a newspaper report or a dry summary of the facts. We think it may also be a reference to Psalm 23, which talks about the "valley of the shadow of death." When we read about this valley, we almost imagine something post-apocalyptic, like a location out of Fallout or that '80s movie Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (which you should see, even though it has nothing to do with Tennyson).
  • Line 7: Tennyson uses this name several times. In fact, it becomes a kind of refrain in the early parts of the poem. It focuses our attention on the courage of these men, how fearless they must be to charge into a place like the valley.
  • Line 16: One more time. It's hard not to notice that not much happens in this poem. The whole thing rests on this one brave, reckless act happening in one place (the valley). That's why Tennyson keeps repeating this image. He wants to burn it into our brains.
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