Robert Frost's "Home Burial" (1914)
 
English 112W
 
 
1. Based on only the first 16 lines of the poem, what do you know about the relationship between the man and the woman? In particular, focus on what the images and spatial relationships convey.
 
2. Look at the pronoun "it" in line 19. What's the referent? (To what does it refer?) And what does it represent?
 
3. Turn your attention to lines 43 and 71. What does Amy mean when she says "You don't know how to ask it" and "you don't know how to speak"? Ask what? Speak how?
 
4. Reread the man's speech, from lines 45-66. What's the tone here? Does it remain consistent or does it shift? If it shifts, where does it shift and why? If it remains consistent, why?
 
5. Has there been any progress during this conversation? Have the man and the woman communicated with one another? Or have they failed to communicate?
 

Raymond Carver's "The Gift" (1986)
 
English 112W
 
 
1. Where does the narrative of this poem shift between then (the past) and now (the present)? Compare the speaker's life in the past to the speaker's life in the present. What was his life like before and what is it like now? What is his attitude (i.e., the tone) towards these moments in his life?
 
2. Re-read the second and third stanzas, paying careful attention to the speaker's diction and style. Do any words or images stand out? Which ones, and what do they tell you about the speaker's feelings? Now, look at the speaker's sentences. What sort of sentences are these? What do they tell you about the speaker?
 
3. Look again at those moments in which the poem moves between past and present. Does the speaker see his life in the past as separate from his life in the present? What prompts him to move from one moment in time to another?
 
4. Turn your attention to the first and last stanzas. How would you characterize the relationship between these two people? What do they say to one another? Do they communicate? Emotionally, are they close to or distant from each other?
 
5. In the final stanza, the speaker says "That's the gift." To what does he refer? What's the gift? What does he mean?
 
 

Return to Phil Nel's syllabus for English 112W, section 5 (M-W-F).