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When I have fears that I may cease to be

When I have fears that I may cease to be

by John Keats

Death Theme

Death. Destruction. Dreams dashed in one fell swoop. Death isn't a peaceful sleep or an easy descent into old age in Keats' work. Instead, it's a particularly bitter reminder of all the things that the poet imagines he'll miss in a world that's teeming with beauty and wonders. Keats may think a lot about death, but that doesn't mean that he's comfortable with his own mortality. Luckily, he seems to enjoy dwelling in uncomfortable spaces.

Questions About Death

  1. Why do you think that the speaker starts the poem out with a declaration of his fears of death? How does this affect your understanding of the rest of the poem?
  2. Do you think that the speaker has reconciled himself to the possibility of death by the end of the poem? How can you tell?
  3. Does it seem like the speaker is exaggerating his fears of death?

Chew on This

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

By the end of the poem, the speaker feels more comfortable with the idea of his own mortality.

By the end of the poem, the speaker is even more afraid of dying.

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