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When Death Comes

When Death Comes


by Mary Oliver

When Death Comes Man and the Natural World Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (line)

Quote #1

like the hungry bear in autumn (line 2)

In our first image of the poem, which is also our first glimpse of death, the speaker chooses an image from the natural world. We get a glimpse of fallen leaves, the shaggy fur, the bulk, the breath and teeth. Using an image from nature announces that the speaker feels that the natural world provides a way of observing and communicating large and complex forces such as death.

Quote #2

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood (lines 11-12)

Our speaker very much sees herself as part of a community of living things. By using the phrase "I look upon everything," and emphasizing it with the line break, she also suggests the importance of observation in understanding and being part of the world.

Quote #3

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular (lines 15-16)

The image of each life as a flower has a way of stressing the commonality of each thing, making them all of equal worth and beauty. We feel that for our speaker this is definitely not a matter of putting everything down to the level of a common flower, but of raising everything up and celebrating its strength and beauty, while also noting the brevity of each individual life. Amazingly, she manages to use the same image to also stress the uniqueness of each living thing. One simple little flower image conveys both equality and individuality.

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