Study Guide

The Cool Web Youth

By Robert Graves


It's an easy theme to overlook, but youth plays a super-important part in "The Cool Web." In basic terms, youth for Roberts Graves represents a time in our lives when we are totally innocent, since we haven't learned to use language yet and we don't understand all the politics and baggage that come with having it shape our thoughts.Ā 

But Graves isn't exactly waxing nostalgic about children. In fact, he's saying that he kind of feels bad for them, since they don't have language to help them make sense of their experiences (poor little guys). On the other hand, he seems to envy them for this same reason. Without doubt, the poem isn't exactly sure whether to celebrate or lament the fact that human beings experience the world through language. But one thing that's sure is that the pre-talking part of childhood is something that both confuses and fascinates Graves.

Questions About Youth

  1. Do you think Graves is nostalgic in the way he talks about kids? Does he tend to talk about childhood as a time of idyllic innocence? How so? How not?
  2. When do you first get the sense that "The Cool Web" isn't your average poem about the fall from childhood innocence into adulthood? What parts of the poem support your ideas?
  3. By the end of this poem, do you feel like children have it easier than adults, or vice versa? What are the unique advantages of each side?
  4. Do you buy the idea that children can't make sense of experience the way adults can, or do children know a lot more than we give them credit for? Why do you think so?

Chew on This

In "The Cool Web," Robert Graves show us that the "fall" from childhood innocence happens at the moment children learn to speak. (Not too much later: the fall from the high-chair.)

"The Cool Web" shows us that life isn't necessarily easier for children compared to adults. If anything, it might be more difficult. So stop wishing to be 2 again, okay?

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