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The Couch

Symbol Analysis

The image of the couch is important, if a little mysterious at first. What the heck is a couch doing in a poem about death? Are we going to be watching a lot of HBO or playing Xbox after we die? Not really. In "Thanatopsis," the couch turns out to be a metaphor for the grave, but with a difference. It refers to the place we go when we die, but it isn’t scary or awful. It’s cozy, comforting, and it makes death seem more like a good afternoon nap than an eternal prison.

  • Line 33: Here’s where the speaker first pitches the idea that death might not actually be so bad. He does that by comparing our "eternal resting-place" (line 31) to a "magnificent couch." The idea here is that we’ll be sharing our grave with kings and wise men, which is supposed to make it seem like more fun. We’re not sure if that works for you, but still, you can see why the couch image is supposed to be comforting, right?
  • Line 80: This is a really key moment for the couch. It’s right at the center of the final image in the poem. The speaker has turned everything around. Instead of worrying about death, we should walk into it happily, full of trust and faith. He sells that concept by comparing death to lying down on a couch, wrapped in a cozy blanket, for a nice sleep.

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