Study Guide

Dream Song 14 Dissatisfaction

By John Berryman

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You don't have to dig very deep into "Dream Song 14" to realize that Henry doesn't feel satisfied with life. He's bored. Really, really, painfully bored. And he lets us know it. But as he lists all of the external sources of his boredom, we start to feel like the true source of his dissatisfaction is internal. Like, it's all in his head.

Questions About Dissatisfaction

  1. How do Berryman's choices of end words and line lengths reflect the poem's theme of dissatisfaction? 
  2. The speaker says he is "heavy bored" (8). Why do you think Berryman chose to describe the speaker's boredom as "heavy"? Did the description give you a clearer sense of the speaker's boredom? Why?
  3. We know the speaker says he's bored, but what about this poem makes him sound bored to you?
  4. The speaker says he is bored by great literature. But what about the poem implies this particular boredom?
  5. When you feel dissatisfied with your life, are the reasons for your dissatisfaction more often internal or external? (Bonus points for honesty!)

Chew on This

When you're unhappy with yourself, nothing in the world will bring you happiness… unless you change your attitude.

Romanticizing nature is, like, so classic poetry, and Berryman is over it.

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