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When Death Comes

When Death Comes


by Mary Oliver

When Death Comes Theme of Awe and Amazement

Curiosity and amazement are a couple key words in our speaker's description of her ideal approach to the world (and her approach to death). The vividness of her opening descriptions of death in "When Death Comes" demonstrates a keen attention to detail and also an appreciation of the strangeness and vastness of the forces at work in the world. We feel that a good way to sum up our speaker's philosophy would be: approach everything with a sense of awe, for there will be something amazing going on if you just pay attention.

Questions About Awe and Amazement

  1. How does curiosity relate to the way our speaker wants to live? What moments in the poem touch on or embody this spirit of curiosity?
  2. When our speaker says that she would like to be "a bride married to amazement," how do you understand that? Do you think there is a specific direction or purpose to this amazement?
  3. How does the speaker's capacity for imagination (those fantastic images of death) relate to her capacity for amazement at the world around her? Is there a difference between being amazed at something present in the world versus something in the imagination?

Chew on This

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

Through her many vivid depictions of death, our speaker is expressing a form of awe at both the vastness of death, and also its intimacy through the specific and tangible forms it takes.

For our speaker, the main business of living seems to be to approach each part of the world with a sense of wonder, whether that part of the world is a person, a daisy, or even death.

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