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Themes

This whole poem leads up to the beginning of the Revolutionary War.  The main part of "Paul Revere's Ride" isn't focused on violence and war, but images of battle and struggle and fighting are everywhere.  We can feel the war hanging over the poem, filling it with excitement and tension but also sadness.

Questions About Warfare

  1. Does this poem make war seem glorious and exciting or sad and brutal?  Or is it somewhere in between?
  2. Why do you think Longfellow skips over most of the battle scenes?  Why doesn't he describe them directly as part of the story?
  3. Longfellow doesn't focus on the British army, except at a distance.  Why do you think we don't "meet" any of the British soldiers in the way we do the sleeping American?   
  4. Would you call this a poem about war?  If not, what do you think is the most important theme?

Chew on This

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

To give the sense of danger and excitement that makes the poem so dramatic, Longfellow makes the British soldiers more like an evil force than real people.

Although the poem is about the glory of the revolutionary spirit, Longfellow's descriptions of violence are meant to communicate the horror and sadness of war.

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