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The Naked and the Nude

The Naked and the Nude

by Robert Graves

Appearances Theme

What really is beautiful? Is it the airbrushed lady that you see on a magazine cover? The crazily-ripped guy who poses in a Speedo? Or the regular person who just happens to have a body that's…a body? That's actually the question that gets right at the heart of "The Naked and the Nude." Is a body only acceptable when it's presented in a certain way, like when it's nude and not just plain old naked? Why are some kinds of nakedness culturally acceptable and not others? After all, we walk past naked statues without blinking an eye. But a streaker? Now that's a scandal. Or is it?

Questions About Appearances

  1. Why do you think we don't have any examples of the nude to compare to the concrete examples of nakedness? 
  2. How you think the poem would be different if it were accompanied by images? What images would you use? 
  3. Which description do you think is the most appealing in the poem? Why?

Chew on This

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

Because the poem only uses a very vague description of the nude, it's hard to make an accurate comparison between the relative values of the two terms. Maybe if this poem were illustrated?

Despite all its attempts to confuse the terms "naked" and "nude," the poem always asserts that appearances are incredibly important. (Guess we better put down this second pint of Ben & Jerry's.)

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