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Musée des Beaux Arts

Musée des Beaux Arts


by W.H. Auden

Musée des Beaux Arts Theme of Suffering

Anytime that a poem announce that it's about suffering, chances are…it's about suffering. But Auden makes sure that we know just how embedded suffering is in the other activities that occupy our daily lives. Sure, we read about it on the web – but do we know when it's happening to our next-door neighbors? Painting society with a wide brush allows Auden to draw back and emphasize the ways that pain is everywhere.

Questions About Suffering

  1. What exactly is the "human position" of suffering? How would you describe it?
  2. Is Auden's argument essentially that human nature doesn't ever change?
  3. Who is actually suffering in this poem? How can you tell?
  4. Is indifference treated as its own form of affliction in this poem? Why or why not?

Chew on This

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

In claiming that the nature of suffering hasn't changed in over 500 years, Auden seems to suggest that there's no room for humanity to improve itself.

By pointing out that human responses to suffering are as important as the initial event, Auden makes space for people to change.

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