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The Passing of the Year

The Passing of the Year

by Robert Service

Appearances Theme

We spend a ton of time in "The Passing of the Year" looking at people and trying to guess what they might be thinking or feeling. Your kindergarten teacher probably always told you not to judge a book by its cover. Still, that's exactly what we're doing here, right? Analyzing appearances, the way people look, is a totally central part of how this poem works.

Questions About Appearances

  1. Why do you think the speaker of this poem spends so much time making guesses about people based on their appearances? How would things be different if they just told him how they felt?
  2. Do you get a mental picture of what the "Old Year" looks like in this poem?
  3. Do any of the characters in this poem make a really strong impression on you? Does the girl feel more "real" than the criminal, for example?

Chew on This

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

The presence of a crowd of silent, staring, mysterious figures in this poem creates a feeling of deep isolation and loneliness that never quite goes away.

While we see a number of people in this poem, the dream-like, imaginary feeling makes it impossible to really know anything about them. This is a poem filled with illusions and phantoms, not breathing, living people.

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