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What is the summary and theme of the poem "The Listeners" by Walter de la...

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powersystem | Student, Undergraduate | eNotes Newbie

Posted April 24, 2008 at 6:08 PM via web

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What is the summary and theme of the poem "The Listeners" by Walter de la Mare?

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted April 25, 2008 at 2:22 AM (Answer #1)

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"The Listeners" describes a traveler who has come to knock on a moonlit door in an eerie, unknown place.  He has come to keep an unnamed promise, and knocks on the door harder and harder, but gets no response.  Unbeknownst to him, a "host of phantom listeners' (line 13) are inside but unresponsive to his calls.  The traveler finally leaves, but the listeners remain.

The theme of the poem is the place of man in a universe which is far greater than he, and which he can neither connect with nor understand.  It focuses on man's state of isolation and disharmony with the natural world.  Nature, as represented by the horse placidly munching on the grass and the bird frightened by the man's disturbing clamor, is normally serene - it is only man who is anxious because of his separateness.  The traveler tries to overcome his aloneness and establish meaning by fruitless seeking (knocking) and responsible living (keeping promises), but the natural world remains unyielding in keeping its distance, and the traveler continues on alone.

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taibur | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted July 16, 2011 at 3:25 PM (Answer #2)

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'THE LISTENERS' BY WALTER DE LA MARE IS A GREAT POEM WHICH HAS SYMBOLIC SIGNIFICANCE.A CLOSE AND SINCERE STUDY OF THE POEM PRODUCES NEW REVEALATIONS ALL THE TIME.A TRAVELLAR COMES TO A DESERTED HOUSE IN THE MIDST OF A FOREST.HE KNOCKS ON THE MOONLIT DOOR OF THE MYSTERIOUS HOUSE MORE THAN ONE TIME.BUT HE RECEIVES NO ANSWER OR RESPONSE FROM THE INMATES OF THE HOUSE. THEN THE TRAVELLER REALISES THE STRANGENESS OF THE SITUATION.THEN HE LEAVES A MESSAGE FOR THE EXISTING INMATES WHO WERE GHOSTS THAT HE HAS KEPT HIS PROMISE.HE ALSO SAYS TO THE PHANTOM LISTENERS TO TELL THE ORIGINAL INMATES OF THE HOUSE THAT NOBODY HAS ANSWERED HIS CALL.THEN THE TRAVELLER AND HIS HORSE LEAVES THE STRANGE PLACE.

  • SOME CRITICS THINKS THAT THE "GRAY EYES" OF THE TRAVELLERS INDICATE THAT THE TRAVELLER IS ALSO DEAD.SOME CRITICS ALSO IGNORES THIS SUGGESTION.ACCORDING TO THEM,IF THE TRAVELLER WAS DEAD,THE FANTOM LISTENERS MUST REPLY TO HIS CALL.ABOVE ALL THE SUPERNATURAL ATMOSPHERE THROUGHWHICH THE TRAVELLER UNDERGOES IS VERY SIGNIFICANT.THE SUDDEN FLYING OF THE BIRD CAN CREATE A SENSE OF HORROR IN THE MIND OF ANY SENSITIVE READER.THE TRAVELLER IS A REPRESENTATIVE OF THE WORLD OF LIVING BEINGS.THE PHANTOM LISTENERS ARE THE MEMBERS OF THE SUPERNATURAL WORLD.THROGH THE LISTENERS WE CAN REALISE THE INABLITY OF THOSE SPIRIT TO SPEAK AND TO RESPONSE.THE DIFFERENCE EXISTING BETWEEN THESE TWO WORLDS CAN BE UNDERSTOOD BY THIS POEM.THE SETTING OF THIS POEM IS VERY IMPORTANT.THIS GOTHIC SETTING CONTRIBUTES TO THIS POEM'S ENORMOUS POPULARITY.
  • THIS POEM CLEARLY SHOWS WALTER DE LA MARE'S SUPREMACY AS A POET.HIS USE OF IMAGERY ADDS A NEW DIMENSION TO THIS POEM.THE IMAGES EMPLOYED IN THIS POEM HELPS TO INCREASE THE SUPERNATURAL ATMOSPHERE OF THIS GREAT POEM.THE POEM ALSO TEACHES US A LESSON THAT COMMUNICATION IS ESSENTIAL FOR ANY HEALTHY HUMAN RELATIONSHIP.THE IMPORTANCE OF PROMISE IN HUMAN LIFE IS ALSO POINTED OUT IN THIS POEM.
  • AFTER JUDGING ALL THE ASPECTS OF THIS POEM, WE CAN CONSIDER IT AS A GREAT AND PRECIOUS WORK OF LITERATURE.ITS MEDIEVAL SETTING GIVES IT AN EXCEPTIONAL CHARM.

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