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Themes

The speaker of the "Prisoner of Chillon" is a political prisoner. In other words, he hasn't committed any crimes, in the regular sense – he's been imprisoned for his beliefs and the beliefs of his father. In a sense, he's been exiled from the rest of society not only in order to punish him for stubbornly holding to his beliefs, but also in order to keep him from spreading his potentially inflammatory ideals to other people.

Questions About Exile

  1. Why is the speaker imprisoned – to punish him for his beliefs, or to keep him from spreading those ideas to others? How do you know?
  2. Which is worse – being imprisoned in a dungeon in one's native land (like the speaker in "The Prisoner of Chillon"), or being exiled to a foreign land to live among strangers?
  3. Why is the speaker able to survive his banishment while his two brothers cannot?
  4. Why might the people who imprisoned the speaker and his family have felt that he was a danger to society?

Chew on This

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

The speaker's exile from society is a result of his ideals: the people who imprison him seem to have feared that the speaker's ideas might somehow spread and contaminate others.

By the end of the poem, the speaker's exile is mental and emotional, as well as physical; he prefers his isolation to rejoining society.

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