This Hour and What Is Dead
by Li-Young Lee
This Hour and What Is Dead Theme of Exile
In "This Hour and What Is Dead," everyone seems to be running away from something. The father is about to head off on a journey, the brother's homeland is in torches, and the speaker himself is a "fugitive" (21). But what exactly are all these people running from? Their love for each other? Their own emotions? Some horrible, unnamed trauma? God?
Questions About Exile
- When our speaker says, "what is living is fugitive," what does that tell us about his state of mind? What does it tell us about what he wants?
- Why do you think the speaker describes God's love as feeling like "flight and running away"? Is God running from something? Is the speaker running from God's love?
- What "journey" do you think the father is about to embark on? Is this a physical journey? A spiritual or mental one?
- We've been dying to ask: why do you think the speaker is running away from his brother's love, or his father's love, or God's love? Why does he want them to leave him?
Chew on This
Our speaker is a fugitive from his brother's, father's, and God's love because none of these figures are accessible to him. He feels their love, but he doesn't want to, because they are all gone and he can't fulfill that love.
God's love feels like flight because the only way our speaker can truly experience it is through death and going to heaven, and he's not ready to die just yet.