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The Naked and the Nude

The Naked and the Nude


by Robert Graves

Analysis: Speaker

Any poem that starts with "For me" is just begging for us to think about its speaker. After all he announces himself (and we assume that it's a he) with the second word! Our speaker doesn't disappoint. He's witty and pretty funny—after all, he takes on a pretty risqué topic and then reminds us, over and over (and over), that he's willing to face issues that might cause most people to avert their eyes. In fact, as we've said in our detailed summary, he devotes an entire paragraph to nakedness, an uncomfortable enough topic. But that's not enough. Nope. He follows that up with another paragraph on the nude. Squirming yet? Like our speaker cares. In fact, that seems to be his goal. He's got a point to make and he's going to make it no matter what.

Of course, even though our speaker never identifies himself, we can gather a few clues about what he's like. For one thing: like Graves, he's pretty up on his Greek mythology. And he's pretty confident of his own opinions. His argument about art is well-organized (by stanza) and all of the allusions to mythology provide sophisticated examples to support his point. It makes him sound learned and maybe, just maybe, make us more inclined to follow him as he makes his pronouncements.

We're fairly convinced anyway, especially when he wraps up his opinions with a little joke. Everyone loves a dude with a good sense of humor. We've got a feeling that our speaker knows this, so maybe that's why he manages to draw the poem to a close with a quip. After repeating the terms "naked" and "nude" over and over and over, he draws them together in one phrase and manages to invert an old artistic hierarchy (nude > naked) by declaring that the nude are actually (gasp!) naked. All in all, we think the speaker would take home a trophy in debate for his argument in this poem.

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