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Give the central idea of the poem 'My Shadow' by Robert Louis Stevenson.

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sheeeeeeeeeen | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

Posted October 3, 2011 at 4:17 PM via web

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Give the central idea of the poem 'My Shadow' by Robert Louis Stevenson.

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted October 3, 2011 at 7:52 PM (Answer #1)

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This is a poem that was written for children, and concerns the way in which the child speaker cannot understand the true nature of his shadow and why it behaves in such a perplexing way. The poem is build around the character of the speaker and his childlike innocence. He clearly does not have an adult's understanding of science and the world, and therefore does not understand the way that his shadow is not actually another person. Such a treatment forces us to examine our own understanding of our shadow and how it functions in a new way as we look upon such scientific facts that are taken for granted in a different way. Note for example the way that the speaker talks about his shadow in the final stanza:

One morning, very early, before the sun was up,
I rose and found the shining dew on every buttercup;
But my lazy little shadow, like an arrant sleepy-head,
Had stayed at home behind me and was fast asleep in bed.

Externalising the boy's shadow and personifying him in such a way helps us to see the world through a child's eyes again in all of its wonder and innocence. We know the reason by the shadow didn't go with the boy, because he left "before the sun was up," but at the same time, there is something touching in the way that the speaker refers to his shadow as "an arrant sleepy-head." Something of the wonder of childhood is restored to us through the use of the speaker being an innocent child.

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