Study Guide

The Cool Web Man and the Natural World

By Robert Graves

Man and the Natural World

When Robert Graves discusses the role that language plays in human consciousness, he usually symbolizes this role by talking about how human beings interact with the natural world. Talking about the natural world is a way for Graves to break experience down into its most basic parts. When he starts talking about the sight of soldiers marching past, he plunges us into the realm of human politics and history. But before and after doing this, he brings us down to the basic level of feeling a hot day (uf) or smelling a rose (sniff). In this sense, "The Cool Web" is able to convey just how deeply language structures every aspect of our everyday experience.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. Why do you think Graves refers to the scent of a rose as being "cruel"? Does he give any evidence in the text for why he does this?
  2. How is talking about the smell of roses and the heat of the day different from talking about the sight of soldiers marching past? Why does Graves bring up both?
  3. How might like language change the way we smell a rose or feel the heat of the day? Isn't it possible to experience things that words fail to capture? Does "The Cool Web" leave open this sort of possibility? Why or why not?

Chew on This

In "The Cool Web," Robert Graves uses images of nature to show us that language gives shape to every aspect of human experience. Mind blown yet?

Words, schmerds. In "The Cool Web," Robert Graves celebrates the ability to experience nature in a way that's beyond language.

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