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Themes

It would be hard to find a more important theme in "The Highwayman" than love. The love that Bess and the Highwayman share drives all the action, and, without it, there really wouldn't be a plot. Even if their love ends up killing them, it's clearly supposed to be a beautiful thing. Then there's Tim the ostler. He's in love too, but his love is much weirder and darker, a big contrast with the exciting passion of Bess and the highwayman.

Questions About Love

  1. Are there bad kinds of love? Do you think Tim the ostler is wrong to love Bess?
  2. Does it make sense to give up your love in order to survive? Does the love in this poem seem too extreme?
  3. Did Bess fall in love with the wrong guy? Is that the kind of thing you can make a decision about?
  4. Do you think ideas about love have changed since this poem was written in 1906?

Chew on This

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

Love is a both a beautiful and a destructive force in "The Highwayman." This contradiction forces us to reconsider our thoughts about the role of love.

The ghost story at the end of the poem softens the blow of the violent deaths, and makes it clear that the speaker is most interested in the beautiful, comforting aspects of love.

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