Study Guide

The Cool Web Language and Communication

By Robert Graves

Language and Communication

Language is pretty much the main theme of "The Cool Web," as you can probably tell from the way Graves talks about the… "cool web of language" and ties language directly to the poem's title in line (9). Basically, Graves argues in this poem that language is the main way that humans are able to organize their experience into something that's manageable. Sure, we turn experience into language in order to communicate it to others. But we also turn it into language in order to communicate it to ourselves. Woah. Pretty mind-blowing, eh?

Questions About Language and Communication

  1. How exactly does language make our experience duller? Does Graves give any clues in "The Cool Web" about how language accomplishes this? If so, where?
  2. Why do children experience life more directly and more intensely than adults? Is this a good thing or bad thing? Why?
  3. Do you agree with the idea that language actually shapes how we experience the world? Why or why not?
  4. How does talking about a bad experience make it more bearable? Have you ever had this experience? If so, how did talking through your bad emotions help you to cope with them? Did it ever make things worse?

Chew on This

In "The Cool Web," Graves takes a pessimistic approach to human experience, claiming that it can never really be as good as we want it to be. Bummer.

Silver lining alert: in "The Cool Web," Robert Graves suggests that life might be better if we could find a way to break the hold that language has over our minds without actually escaping from language altogether. Sounds tricky, though…

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