From 11:00PM PDT on Friday, July 1 until 5:00AM PDT on Saturday, July 2, the Shmoop engineering elves will be making tweaks and improvements to the site. That means Shmoop will be unavailable for use during that time. Thanks for your patience!
We have changed our privacy policy. In addition, we use cookies on our website for various purposes. By continuing on our website, you consent to our use of cookies. You can learn about our practices by reading our privacy policy.
© 2016 Shmoop University, Inc. All rights reserved.
Sunday Morning

Sunday Morning


by Wallace Stevens

Sunday Morning Theme of Duty

The main conflict of the poem is motivated by the woman’s thoughts about the death of Christ. It’s Sunday morning, and a lot of people are in church, and she thinks that maybe she should be there, too. Does she have a duty to make a symbolic journey across the ocean to Palestine, where Christ is buried? Does she need to give up the small pleasures in her life, like her oranges and pet bird, in order to find eternal bliss?

Questions About Duty

  1. If you had to guess, do you think that the woman in the poem was raised as a Christian? What influence has Christian ideas of duty had on her life?
  2. Why are images of Christian sacrifice in the poem associated with silence and quiet?
  3. How would you explain the first line of stanza II: "Why should she give her bounty to the dead?" What does "her bounty" refer to, and who are "the dead?"
  4. Why does she only think about Christian duty and sacrifice when she’s not thinking about her immediate surroundings, like the oranges and her bird?

Chew on This

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

All of the protagonist’s serious thoughts about Christian sacrifice amount to a feeling of guilt that she is not in church.

People who Shmooped this also Shmooped...