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Themes

Terence, our main speaker in "Terence, this is stupid stuff," has kind of a bleak outlook on life. He acknowledges that life has some happy moments, but for the most part, he's more focused on the sad times. He thinks that's what we really need to be getting ready for. In fact, he thinks that's why we really need poems, because life is more sad than happy, and sad poetry can help to toughen us up (build our emotional calluses), to prepare us for sadness's inevitable punch to the gut. Luckily, we'll have poetry to protect us.

Questions About Sadness

  1. Why is Terence so sad? Do you get a feeling for what's eating him? What parts of the poem give you your ideas? 
  2. Do you think this whole poem is unreasonably sad? Does it seem like the speaker takes too dark a view of the world? Why or why not?
  3. Are you persuaded that poetry can lend a hand when you're feeling down? How does Terence try to convince us of that idea?
  4. Does the poem end on a sad note or a happy one? Is the story of Mithridates sad? Why do you think so?

Chew on This

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

The poem gets sadder as it continues, but it ends on a note of triumph. The survival of Mithridates gives us hope that we too can survive sadness and trouble. So we've got that going for us.

Slowly but surely, Terence strips away our illusions about the world, and leaves us with a picture of the sadness of life that is grim, but realistic. Thanks a bunch, Terence.

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