Study Guide

The Last Words of My English Grandmother Power

By William Carlos Williams

Power

"Powerlessness" might be a better way to describe how this theme pops up in "The Last Words of My English Grandmother." The poem gives a touching portrait of how our personal power is taken away from us as we age. Our bodies and minds start to fail us, and little by little we lose more and more control. It might seem grim, but the poem's not a total downer. The grandmother of the title faces this loss of power like a champ (or a boss, or—you know—like a baws), and in the end goes out on her own terms.

Questions About Power

  1. At which point in the poem do you think the grandmother is the least powerful? The most? How can you tell?
  2. In what ways does the speaker have power in the poem? In ways does he have none?
  3. Do you think the grandmother reclaims her personal power in the moment of death, or does she totally relinquish it? What parts of the poem give you your ideas?

Chew on This

Throughout the poem, the speaker is totally helpless in the face of his grandmother's impending death (the poor schlub).

The poem shows how, even though we're powerless to prevent our eventual deaths, we can in some ways choose the way we go out. (In this case: with style.)

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