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by Edna St. Vincent Millay

Recuerdo Theme of Compassion and Forgiveness

There's something surprising and touching in unexpected generosity. That's precisely the sort of compassion we see in "Recuerdo": a chance gesture that turns out to have deep meaning for the person on its receiving end. It turns out that your actions have an impact on the people around you – even the strangers you pass on the street. Sure, it's not as world-changing as becoming a U.N. goodwill ambassador. But we can't all be Angelina Jolie. Sometimes handing out a piece of fruit can do just as much good on a small scale.

Questions About Compassion and Forgiveness

  1. Which do you think was the more generous gesture: buying the paper, giving the woman their fruit, or giving her their money? Why?
  2. Why do you think our speaker chooses to end the poem with these gestures of compassion and not their return journey? How does that frame our understanding of the night?
  3. Do you think that this is a depiction of impulsive generosity or a habitual practice? How can you tell?

Chew on This

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

This is a perfect example of compassion: a sudden, instant choice to help someone less fortunate than the speaker.

For all its beauty, this poem describes one of the problems with charity: the speaker impulsively gives everything to the first person she sees without stopping to consider more pragmatic solutions.

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