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Not Waving but Drowning

Not Waving but Drowning

by Stevie Smith

Not Waving but Drowning Questions

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

  1. What do you think the dead man died of? Did he literally drown, or is drowning a metaphor for some other fate? Was it an accident or did he take his own life?
  2. Do you think the dead man's friends are to blame for his death? Why didn't they recognize that he was in trouble?
  3. How sympathetic are the voices in the poem to the dead man? Do you feel swayed by any of them to feel a certain way about him? Which voice do you trust most?
  4. If you could speak to the dead man, what would you tell him? What would you say to the other voices?
  5. Imagine you're writing a sequel or a prequel to this poem. Which voices would you include? What actions or events would they discuss? What would their tones be? Would your poem be happier or sadder than this one?
  6. Let's say you're adapting this poem as a short film, but your director doesn't want you to use any speech from the poem. How would you show the dead man's complaints? How would you show his friends' reaction to his death? What would the setting or settings be? Would you make his death a literal or a figurative drowning?

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