Study Guide

Barter Man and the Natural World

By Sara Teasdale

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Man and the Natural World

In "Barter," Teasdale uses primarily natural images as examples of loveliness. She shows us that loveliness is all around. With all those natural images as examples, we get the sense that living life in appreciation of loveliness and beauty is the right, the natural, way to live. Shmoop suddenly wants to go camping—anyone up for s'mores?

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Teasdale relies on nature imagery for her examples of loveliness, but is nature really a lovely place? Ever seen an episode of When Animals Attack
  2. What images would you choose to convey the flip side (the harsh, brutal side) of nature? Which of Teasdale's nature images could go both ways (could be used to represent the loveliness or the brutality of life)?
  3. Why do you think we tend to find nature so beautiful? What is Teasdale asking us to appreciate, specifically, in this poem? 
  4. If you had to pick three nature images to convey loveliness, what would they be? Sara has dibs on the ocean, the forests, and stars. Dig deeper.

Chew on This

Teasdale uses nature imagery because there is an underlying sense of danger in nature and this makes the poem more complex and interesting. For example, Teasdale's image of the waves against the cliffs is beautiful, but you wouldn't want to be in that ocean. You surfers in the crowd know that big waves and rocks can be a nasty combo.

Teasdale uses nature imagery because it is extremely accessible for the average reader. All of her nature images evoke sensory, positive responses in the reader, helping her convey her message that life is lovely.

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