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Elegy for Jane

Elegy for Jane


by Theodore Roethke

Elegy for Jane Questions

Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.

  1. How is "Elegy for Jane" a traditional elegy and how does it deviate from the form's traditional elements? (Check out "Form and Meter" if you're stuck.)
  2. Roethke compares Jane to birds throughout the poem. Why do you think he chose birds? Why did he choose the three types of birds that he did (wren, sparrow, and pigeon)? How would the poem be different if he had chosen a different kind of animal?
  3. Some of Roethke's lines are quite long (line 10 has 14 words) and others are quite short (lines 13 and 22 only have 4 words a each). Why? Did Roethke just have a hard time being consistent or do you think he had a specific reason for the varied line lengths? If he had a reason, what was it? How does having short and long lines together change the way you read the poem? 
  4. If Jane could read this poem, what would she think? How would she feel about it: flattered, confused, embarrassed, angry? Why do you think she would feel this way?
  5. If you were Jane, what animal would you want to be compared to in the poem? Why?

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