Study Guide

Home Burial Death

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"The little graveyard where my people are!
So small the window frames the whole of it.
Not so much larger than a bedroom, is it?" (24-26)

The husband has grown up with this graveyard nearby, so death, for him, is a fact of life that's always present. It's also kind of weird that he would compare the graveyard, where people are buried when their lives are over, to the bedroom, where many lives get their first beginnings, but hey, it's all part of the circle of life for this guy.

"[…] it is not the stones,
But the child's mound— —" (30-31)

Here, the man shows that he sees what's bothering the woman, though in a sense he doesn't. He says that the gravestones are no big deal, and that it's the child's grave that is really bothering her. We get the sense that she's bothered mostly by the child's mound, yes, but that she's still unnerved by the stones, and the fact that death is so close to her, day in and day out.

"Can't a man speak of his own child he's lost?" (37)

One of the biggest problems in this poem is that, no, this couple cannot speak to each other about death. Again and again, they miss the mark in understanding the other's emotions and reactions. Note how the word "lost" here is used as a euphemism. The husband may have a graveyard on his property, but he still won't talk about death plainly.

"What had how long it takes a birch to rot
To do with what was in the darkened parlor." (99-100)

This time, it's the woman using euphemisms to talk about death. The thing in the darkened parlor, we can guess, is her dead child's body.

"No, from the time when one is sick to death,
One is alone, and he dies more alone." (104-105)

The woman's view of death is a lonely one indeed. Listen to the sounds in these lines—we can hear the long mournful "o" sounds declaring her depression and sadness. She has jumped from discussing her son's mortality here to talking about death in general, with some mopey assonance to boot.

"Friends make pretense of following to the grave,
But before one is in it, their minds are turned
And making the best of their way back to life" (106-108)

The woman continues talking about how lonely dying is, as if she were the one who were dead, not her son. But perhaps she makes a good point—she feels that her son died alone, that she is going to die alone, and that her husband can't even come close to supporting her in her grief.

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