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The Naked and the Nude

The Naked and the Nude


by Robert Graves

Analysis: Setting

Where It All Goes Down

This poem is set…in the mind. Oh, and in the world, too.

Wait, that's a lot of territory to cover, isn't it? Well, yes, but stick with us: see, the speaker of "The Naked and the Nude" is clearly working some problems out in his own head. He's puzzling through an issue that has really been getting his goat (sort of like how we might wonder for a really long time why Daylight Saving Time exists or why people say "dead as a doornail").

But then again, the things he's thinking about are smack in the center of the world. In fact, the human body is pretty much as corporeal and earthly as you can get. So, you could say that this poem has a strong mind/body balance—which would make every yoga instructor proud.

And then, of course, the real tension in this poem comes from the way that the body moves in the world. Is it okay to be naked? Or can we only be naked when we're naked in an artistic way? Is being "in the nude" somehow more respectable than being naked? Is being naked somehow crude or debased? All these questions revolve around the ways that the world perceives nudity and nakedness. So this poem takes place in the mind, which can sometimes seem like the furthest thing away from the world. And yet, it's specifically the role of art in the world that drives this poem's central question.

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