Study Guide

Flare Death

By Mary Oliver

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"Nothing lasts," or so the speaker of "Flare" tells us, right off the bat. In fact, she spends a good deal of the poem exploring death and how we relate to it. There's the death of her parents, the impending death of the moth, and the unmentioned but clearly evoked fact that we all die. In the face of death, she urges us to live vitally, to be feisty and exuberant, rather than mopey and blue.

Questions About Death

  1. With the image of the moth beating against the lantern, then against the beak of the crow, what is our speaker trying to say about death? What can we learn from the way it keeps beating its wings in the face of death?
  2. Do you think our speaker is a little dismissive toward the memory of her parents? Is the way she turns away from them disrespectful or simply practical and emotionally beneficial? 
  3. Do you think those two words at the beginning of Section 3—"Nothing lasts"—are meant to bring an awareness, somewhere in the background of our minds, of our own mortality? Or are they just meant to show that everything's fleeting?

Chew on This

For our speaker, death is not something to be feared, but rather a reason for living all the more vibrantly and fully.

In this poem, a big part of embracing nature is embracing the only fact of life: death.

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