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Thanatopsis

Thanatopsis

by William Cullen Bryant

Analysis: Speaker

We know this poem doesn’t come right out and tell you to believe in God, and we don’t actually think it’s "about" religion. Still, if we’re just looking at the speaker’s style, we totally hear the voice of a preacher in this poem. First of all, it’s a preacher’s job to tell you what you should be doing, and how you should be feeling, and this speaker does a lot of that. He’s also encouraging, but also a little scary. He gives you the bad news (you’re going to die) but then he follows is up with the good news (everything is going to be OK). There are exciting, stand-up-and-shout moments: "Go forth under the open sky" or "Take the wings of morning." There are also quiet, comforting moments. Overall, this sounds to us like a sermon.

How do you picture the speaker of the poem? Why?

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