There's kind of a lot of gore in "The Highwayman." If it were a movie, we'd probably be creeping into R-rated territory. Both of the main characters die in a pool of their own blood, and the threat of violence is there almost from the beginning. The symbolic blood red color of the highwayman's coat and Bess's love knot tip us off that this is a poem where blood and violence and death are a major focus
Questions About Violence
Is there such a thing as good violence? If the Highwayman had wiped out all those soldiers, would that have seemed OK?
Do you react to violence in a poem the same way you do in a movie? Does this violence seem less real or less scary? Would you read this poem to a little kid?
Does the Highwayman deserve what he gets?
Chew on This
Love and violence are completely intertwined in "The Highwayman." For each of the main characters, violence is the strongest expression of their love. In an odd way, this poem celebrates violence as much as love.
This poem condemns the violent life of the highwayman, since it brought a violent death on him and the innocent Bess.