Critically comment on the theme of "Funeral Blues" by Auden.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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In my mind, a critical analysis of the theme in Auden's poem would center on the idea of how death is experienced by those left behind.  The poem takes the point of view that death's impact is most felt by the loved ones who are not able to take that journey with the one they loved.  There is an irredeemable pain that is evident in the poem.  This feeds the theme that a loss of unimaginable proportions is caused by death.  Regardless of how one views the issue of death, there is an emptiness, a fundamental cavernous sense of the hollow that is caused by death.  The theme of death's impact in terms of forlornnes is seen throughout the poem in different ways.  The speaker explores how the forlornness of death impacts daily life in the first stanza, where daily time has stopped, the telephone is devoid of purpose, and the sound and noise of consciousness are replaced with a silence of mourning.  In the second stanza, there is a continuation of this theme of forlornness or abandonment in the social appreciation of death.  Auden paints these as meaningless customs that society undertakes that fail to reach the fundamnental pain of abandonment death causes.  This is seen in the closing stanzas where the speaker assembles what life is like without the deceased.  The emptiness of living, the theme of forlornness of being is brought out in different ways in the last two stanzas.  From suggesting that the complete sense of purpose and direction that was experienced in life with the deceased to the lack of meaning that shared existence featured in the last stanza, the poem's theme of the forlornness that is experienced by the living when a loved one dies is painfully apparent and evident in the poem.  It is here where this theme is explored in poetically beautiful terms by Auden.  It is a theme that does not merely suggest that death is bad, but rather constructs a narrative whereby one has to fully appropriate that the pain of living after a loved one has died is of the most painful realities evident, constructing it through the eyes of one who has been abandoned or forlorn by death's grasp.


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