Study Guide

Winter Man and the Natural World

By William Shakespeare

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Man and the Natural World

"Winter" is in many ways a nature poem; there are owls and birds and descriptions of winter scenes (icicles, snow). But it's not just about some frozen forest, but about what people do in this winter wonderland. It's about how humans make their way through the bleakest time of the year. Yeah, life's basic necessities (milk, water, blood) are frozen or chilled, but people manage to overcome nature's lack of hospitality and soldier on.

Questions About Man and the Natural World

  1. How does this poem compare to other "nature" poems you've read, like say, John Keats's "To Autumn" or Hayden's "Those Winter Sundays"?
  2. We've got man. We've got the natural world. Is one of them more important than the other in this poem? Does one seem to be more of a "focus"? How can you tell?
  3. Is it strange that the birds are just "brooding" in the snow? Is their ability to sit in the snow supposed to contrast with how difficult winter is for people? Why or why not?
  4. What does the owl symbolize, really? Cuteness? Wisdom? Predatory instincts? Song? What parts of the poem support your choice?

Chew on This

The natural world is man's friend and enemy—his frenemy. In this poem's tough winter, the forest furnishes apples and logs for survival.

At one with nature? Puh-lease. While humans can learn to adapt to nature, or deal with it, man and nature will always be fundamentally separate.

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