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Themes

"In Memory of W.B. Yeats" depicts the world as a lonely place. Funny enough, though, people don't even seem to realize how alone and isolated they are. The way this poem describes it, the world is almost like the set of a horror movie – you know, the kind where people can't figure out that they've been turned into zombies? Poetry may not be a perfect cure for all this isolation, but according to Auden, it can help people see the truth of their situation, even if it forces them to acknowledge their own loneliness.  And that's something. As your middle school teachers always said, knowing is half the battle.

Questions About Isolation

  1. Is there anyone who seems to not be isolated in this poem?
  2. What is it that isolates people? Can you find evidence in the poem to support your answer?
  3. Was Yeats as alone as everyone else? How can you tell?
  4. Does poetry combat isolation? If so, how?

Chew on This

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

Even though poetry can point out people's isolation, it can't do anything to solve their problems.

Poetry can help combat the pervasive loneliness of our lives by making people aware of their own isolation.

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