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Themes

The West Wind in Shelley’s ode is depicted as an autumnal wind, preparing the world for winter. As a result, the poem is filled with images of death and decay, reminders of both natural and human mortality. The speaker hopes that the death of one world will be inevitably followed by a new rebirth and a new spring, but the poem leaves this rebirth uncertain.

Questions About Mortality

  1. Why is death associated with physical movement in this poem? For example, why do the dead leaves seem more completely dead when the West Wind whisks them away? Why does the storm blowing across the sky seem like a tomb?
  2. Is the speaker of this poem dying or anticipating his own death?
  3. How are the "deaths" of the natural world and of human beings depicted differently in this poem? To put it another way, what has Nature got that we haven’t got?
  4. Why does the speaker describe his own thoughts as "dead"? What does the poem suggest would qualify as living thought?

Chew on This

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

"Ode to the West Wind" suggests that death can be productive, because it creates an opportunity for new life and rebirth.

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