Study Guide

Break, Break, Break Language and Communication

By Alfred Lord Tennyson

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Language and Communication

The speaker of "Break, Break, Break" tells us that he can't express his thoughts or his grief, but then he goes on for three more lyrical, lovely stanzas about how much he misses his dead friend.  Who says he can't express himself well? So he's probably worried for nothing, but the question of language and communication is still an important one in this poem.

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. Why does the speaker say that he has a hard time expressing himself in lines 3-4? 
  2. Is the speaker comforted or bothered by the "shouts" of the "fisherman's boy" or the singing of the "sailor lad"?  Or is he completely indifferent?  Explain your answer.
  3. The breaking of the waves of the sea is the most persistent noise of the poem's world. Does this white noise in the background seem to comfort the speaker?  Why or why not?
  4. Why does the speaker wish to hear the "sound" of a "voice that is still," instead of actual words or conversation?

Chew on This

The speaker seems to worry that his attempts to express his grief for his friend will be as meaningless and empty as the "shouts" of the kids at the port or repetitive noise of the breaking waves.

The speaker's longing for "the sound of a voice that is still" suggests intellectual as well as emotional solitude and his desire for conversation with an equal.

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