Although "Home Burial" takes place mostly in dialogue, this couple sure doesn't do a whole lot of communicating. At first, the woman will hardly speak to the man at all. Then, when she finally opens up, he hardly listens to what she says. In other words, this poem isn't a conversation; it's a fight. In that sense, it's as much about the communications between this husband and wife pair as it is about the events in their lives related to the poem.
Questions About Language and Communication
What is the effect of hearing these two characters actually speak to each other? How would the poem's effect be different if the narrator had simply paraphrased their conversation?
Which character in this poem do you think is the most effective communicator? Why?
Do you agree with the woman, that the man doesn't know how to speak about his dead child? Why, or why not?
Do you think the couple should establish one of the husband's "arrangements" to not talk about their dead child (53-58)? Why, or why not? Have you ever had an arrangement like this? If so, did it work?
Chew on This
In this poem, the reason the husband and wife are fighting is not that their kid's dead; it's that they don't actually know how to talk to each other.
Some of the problems that this couple has communicating are caused by their views of the opposite gender as a whole, not just the other person.