In Thanatopsis, Byrant encourages the reader to face death with courage.Explain how he does this. You might want to and explain his use of nature, personification, and metaphor.

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

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Bryant's foundational premise in "Thanatopsis" is that through death, one becomes a part of nature.  The natural world in which one lives will become the natural resting spot for any person.  In order to prove this premise, Bryant must create an image of nature that challenges the fearful notion of death and dying.  The opening lines do just this, as Bryant describes nature as, “ a voice of gladness” and bearing a “ smile/ and eloquence of beauty.”  Bryant personifies Nature as having a “healing sympathy.”  Such images create the idea that Nature is welcoming; death is not something to be feared.  When the “last bitter hour” faces an individual, when death is inevitable, Bryant suggests that welcoming nature will provide solace and a soothing comfort (lines 14- 20).  In Bryant’s mind, it is quite natural for one to become a part of Earth when one dies because of the inherent connection between humans and their Earth, almost to suggest “from dust we came” and the cyclical pattern of this makes this almost inevitably reassuring:

Nor in the embrace of ocean, shall exist    
Thy image. Earth, that nourished thee, shall claim  Thy growth, to be resolved to earth again,    
And, lost each human trace, surrendering up    
Thine individual being, shalt thou go    
To mix forever with the elements;    
To be a brother to the insensible rock,    
And to the sluggish clod, which the rude swain    
Turns with his share, and treads upon. The oak    
Shall send his roots abroad, and pierce thy mould.

By creating the natural images of showing how humans will become part of the natural world, Bryant has replaced the traditional isolating view of death with a more cohesive and connected version.  In concluding his transformative image of death, Bryant compares this “innumerable caravan” to a “drapery of his couch” and “lies down to pleasant dream.”

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