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The Naked and the Nude

The Naked and the Nude


by Robert Graves

The Naked and the Nude Theme of Death

This theme's a sneaky one, since it doesn't seem to enter into "The Naked and the Nude" until the very, very end. But you could think of it as the dramatic twist that makes the whole poem click into place. Beautiful? That's great, but you're still going to die. Got a face only a mother would love? Well, too bad, but you're gonna die someday, too. And the same goes for different types of "dishabille." Whether you think of nudity as another word for a fancy airbrushing in all your Facebook pics, or you're just plain naked and enjoying it, death will visit you all. Feeling better now?

Questions About Death

  1. Wait—isn't art immortal? So why does Graves discuss "dead" nudes? What lines in the poem give you your ideas? 
  2. What sort of afterlife is the poem imagining? Why do you think it's so incredible?
  3. Do either the nakeds or the nudes seem like real people who live and die? Why or why not? 
  4. What does death have to do with nudity? How might the speaker answer that question?

Chew on This

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

Death is a great leveler; distinctions between different types of humanity all collapse when we die. (Hooray?)

Technical foul. Graves uses death as a heavy-handed and disproportionate way to enforce a small technical distinction between two terms.

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