Study Guide

Million Dollar Baby W.B. Yeats' "Lake Isle of Innisfree"

W.B. Yeats' "Lake Isle of Innisfree"

Frankie loves him some W.B. Yeats. Can you blame him? Yeats is a rock star of 20th-century poetry. (Given their common Irish heritage, we'd compare him to Bono, but we can't imagine Yeats forcing his poems onto your bookshelf whether you want them or not.

One Yeats poem in particular gets spotlighted in the film: "Lake Isle of Innisfree." It's the one Frankie reads to Maggie at the rehab center, and it's all about wanting to escape. Yeats wants to find a cabin in a glade; Frankie and Maggie fantasize about finding a bucolic little place in the middle of nowhere. She'll learn how to bake. He'll scarf down lemon pie. You don't need SpyTech to spot the parallels between Yeats' hideaway and Frankie and Maggie's little piecrust palace.

According to The New York Times' Wes Davis, there's more to it than that, though. Davis believes the poem is also symbolic of how hard we fight to keep hope alive, and how real life has a nasty tendency to stomp on our dreams. In "Innisfree," the speaker's dream can be kept alive only "in the deep heart's core." According to Davis, when Frankie reads the poem to Maggie, he's digging their dream up and polishing it. In translating "Innisfree" from Gaelic into English for her, "it feels as if he's extracting a gift of hope for her out of the bedrock of Ireland's nearly forgotten language," writes Davis.

In other words, daydreaming about a secluded cabin is one thing; really, truly believing that it's doable is another. Frankie seems to have faith that escape is possible. When he reads "Lake Isle of Innisfree" to Maggie, he's trying to encourage her, trying to keep spirits high and their getaway plan alive.

In that respect, he's trying to keep her alive, too.

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