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Can anyone give a summary of the poem "No" by Thomas Hood?

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vandu04 | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted July 8, 2009 at 10:19 AM via web

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Can anyone give a summary of the poem "No" by Thomas Hood?

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mrs-campbell | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 8, 2009 at 12:58 PM (Answer #1)

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In Thomas Hood's poem "No," he is basically stating that in November, nothing is going on.  It's a dreary month, filled with nothing, filled with all sorts of "no's."  In November, he states, even the weather is dreary; so dreary that there is no "dawn", "dusk", "proper time of day", "sun", "moon", or "dawn."  There are no happy bees buzzing about, no flowers, no cheerfulness.  In addition, there is no socialization or fun parties to attend.  There is no travelling or mail or news, "No warmth, no cheerfulness," and no warmth of any kind to lighten the days.

In essence, Hood is using the word "November," and playing with the "No" that is at the beginning of it.  He is saying that November was aptly named, because in that miserable month, the weather is bad, the company is bad, and there is nothing to look forward to.  I hope that those thoughts help you to understand the poem a bit; good luck!

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e-martin | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted July 13, 2015 at 11:01 PM (Answer #3)

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This poem by Thomas Hood associates the month of November with a lack of positivity. (The poem does not exactly associate the month with negativity, not explicitly, but instead only implies that November can be seen as a negative or dark period because it lacks certain positive elements of humanity, sunshine, growth and the like.) 

The poem's central themes are social isolation and a sort of disorientation that results from a lack of reference points.

        No indications where the Crescents go—
        No top to any steeple—
No recognitions of familiar people—

Of the many things that are stated to be absent or lacking, we can argue that the idea communication connects many of them. The poem presents an idea of being cut off from humanity and from nature too. 

        No mail—no post—
        No news from any foreign coast—

       [...]

No shade, no shine, no butterflies, no bees,
No fruits, no flowers, no leaves, no birds

Formally, the poem is constructed as a series of negations. Almost all the phrases that make up the poem are noun phrases without a verb. (The verbs all appear as gerunds, essentially transformed into nouns, as in the phrase "No traveling at all.") 

These negations are grouped by theme and move from broad statements of "No sun - no moon!" to more idiosyncratic or colloquial statements like "no 't’other side the way'" and back again to observations on people, movement/travel and nature. 

The poem's twist, as it is, comes in the final one-word line, "November," completing the poem with a conflation of all its negations with the winter month. Too playful to be regarded as a serious dirge or a real lament, "No!" stands instead as a somewhat light-hearted expression of the isolation one might feel when winter sets in. 

The free-form layout of the poem contributes to its (surprisingly) contemporary feel and indicates a sensibility that strives to entertain as it engages the reader, creating an open invitation to the reader to enjoy the poem and to fully understand it (as opposed to being dense or obscure or puzzling.) Thus, the poem may be superficial in its playfulness but satisfying as a verbal/literary performance. 

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