Study Guide

Hanging Fire Death

By Audre Lorde

Death

Our speaker is concerned about typical teenager stuff: pimples, school dances, the math team, having to wear braces. But she's also concerned about death—like, really concerned. She wonders if she will make it past graduation alive, and even goes as far as imagining what kind of songs people will sing at her funeral. We can't help but ask: is it normal for a teen to be so worried about death? Is our speaker taking this death-anxiety a little too far? While we can't answer these questions for sure (after all, we at Shmoop aren't clinical psychologists), the fact that our 14-year-old speaker is so concerned with her own mortality is worrying. And we can't help but feel that she could use a little adult guidance at this time. (We're looking at you, speaker's momma.)

Questions About Death

  1. Why do you think that the speaker is so focused on death? Does the poem provide any reason or context for her worries about her own mortality? 
  2. Are questions and worries about death just a normal part of everyday teenage life? Or do you think that the speaker has some serious issues? How can you tell?
  3. Do the speaker's concerns about death seem more pressing to you than her concerns about pimples and boys?
  4. Does the poem treat some issues as more important than others? If so, which?

Chew on This

Death is a part of life, and it's totally normal for a teenager to think about it. There's nothing wrong with our speaker (so everybody just chill out about her).

Our speaker is way too death-focused to be healthy. Get thee to a good therapist, speaker.

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