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Themes

What's there to be afraid of in the world of "The Darkling Thrush"? We're so glad you asked. It turns out that the answer is quite simple: everything. The world's going to hell in a handbasket, and our speaker is bound and determined to be a tour guide along the way. Sure, there aren't any actual ghosts and ghouls and creepy-crawlies around, but people who seem to be ghostly and ghoulish might just be scarier than the real thing. Reality, it turns out, is scarier than fiction, and this world is all-too-real. And all-encompassing. In other words, there's no way to get out. Comfortable yet?

Questions About Fear

  1. What's scarier in this poem: a dying natural world or half-dead humanity?
  2. Does the bird's optimism seem irrational?
  3. Does the speaker's fear seem irrational?
  4. How does the elaborate figurative language of the first stanzas contribute to the grim picture that the speaker is drawing?

Chew on This

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

The speaker of this poem isn't actually afraid of the future. He is just convinced that we should be.

The speaker of this poem is terrified of any and all change.

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