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This Hour and What Is Dead

This Hour and What Is Dead


by Li-Young Lee

This Hour and What Is Dead Theme of Family

A brother, a father, and speaker. Sounds like a family to Shmoop, and an interesting one at that. For the first two thirds of "This Hour and What Is Dead," our speaker talks about his deceased brother and father, and their love for him. The loss of these two, and the memories the speaker has of them, are the basis for his emotional turmoil. The more we learn about our speaker, the more we realize that he defines himself by his relationship to his family. He is, at heart, a brother and a son.

Questions About Family

  1. What can we make of such details as the "heavy boots" of his brother, or the "various colors" of the thread his father sews? What's the effect of giving us this information? Does it tell us anything about the brother and father?
  2. Do you think God is a part of this family? Do you think the poem moves in order of importance, from brother to father to God?
  3. Do you agree that our speaker defines himself through his connection to his family? If so, do you think he's truly trying to present his brother and father, or is he just talking about his own emotions through them? Or if he's not defining himself through his family, why talk about them at all?
  4. Where's the mother?

Chew on This

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

The speaker's connection to his brother and father, though in many ways cherished, also keeps him from being at peace.

God is definitely part of this family, because our speaker resents God, just as he resents the memory of his brother and father.

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