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Themes

Don't you just love it when a poem has two themes that seem totally opposed to each other, like Truth and Doubt? Shmoop does, which is why we're really excited to dig into the role of questions, concerns, and uncertainty in "Up-Hill." In light of this upcoming quest, we suggest an alternate title for this section: "Doubt, Or Why Speaker #2 Would Be The World's Worst Tour Guide."

Questions About Doubt

  1. What role does the question-answer format of "Up-Hill" play in drawing out doubt as one of the poem's major themes?
  2. How might you describe the questions asked in "Up-Hill"? How would you describe the answers given?
  3. Doubt is all about unanswered questions, right? Take a look at "Up-Hill" and figure out what specific questions are raised by Speaker #2's answers and why Rossetti might have intentionally left them unanswered.
  4. Does the fact that many of Speaker #2's answers only serve to raise more questions make him an untrustworthy speaker? Why or why not?

Chew on This

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

"Up-Hill" is not a poem that speaks in terms of certain doctrine or ideas. The heart of the poem is completely dependent upon uncertainty. Do you even doubt it?

The unanswered questions that arise in "Up-Hill" represent all the unresolved mysteries of life, including that ultimate, super-mega mystery of them all: what exactly happens to us after we die?

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