Study Guide

Grass Memory and the Past

By Carl Sandburg

Memory and the Past

In "Grass," the grass is all about its "work," which, as you know, is growing over the battlefields. In doing its job, then, the grass effectively erases the signs of the past. It grows over the mass graves. It covers the land's own battle scars. The grass sure isn't interested in preserving the memory of the past. It's like one giant green eraser. (We had one of those back in our elementary school days.) We think that Sandburg wrote this poem to remind us, its readers, that we are the ones who have to do the work of memory. Nature isn't gonna remember; it's up to humanity to remember the dead.

Questions About Memory and the Past

  1. What is the relationship between nature and memory in the poem? 
  2. Why do you think Sandberg included the confused train passengers in the poem? What's their effect on how we read "Grass" as a whole? 
  3. Does the poem have a goal? Does it offer up a method of remembering, like building war memorials or observing Memorial Day?
  4. Does it suggest how or why we should remember? What parts of the poem support your answer?

Chew on This

"Grass" wants us to put more effort into remembering the trauma of wars so that we don't fight more of them. Looks like we could learn a thing or two about work ethic from the grass.

"Grass" suggests that human memory is pointless; the grass is going to "cover all" no matter what. Now that should cheer you up.

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