Death and Meaninglessness
World War I brought an entirely new meaning to the idea of conflicts between nations. While thousands of patriots from each of the countries involved went eagerly and confidently into battle, thousands more were shocked by the massive undertaking, never before having witnessed such large-scale political participation in warfare. For many, that shock led to disillusionment with their own governments and depression over the loss of so many young men who fought and died without fully understanding why they were fighting and for whom they were dying. Sara Teasdale was one of the latter.
For years, the poet had used her creativity to write love poems. Her style was simple, elegant, and innocent, expressing feminine sensitivity to romantic relationships, marriage, loss of love, and the beauty of finding it again. Addressing the brutality of physical battle and warring nations did not enter her work until her own emotional response to World War I forced her into it. This was new territory for Teasdale, but she ventured into it with the same simple yet imposing style, changing only her themes to reflect the dark mood and nagging fear that plagued her own mind and her environment. Suddenly, life seemed meaningless. With so many people willing to take up arms and march into strange lands ready to kill or be killed, Teasdale found it difficult to maintain any sense of decency or order in the world, to hold onto a belief in a gentle and peaceful human nature. Both her anger and pessimism are evident in “There Will Come Soft Rains.”
The first half of the poem—with its pastoral scenes and pretty depiction of animals and trees in their natural states—is a set-up for the second half when suddenly the tone turns bitter, admonishing mankind’s absurd and chaotic behavior. The total disappearance of human beings from the earth is not as far-fetched an idea as it once may have been, and...
(The entire section is 794 words.)
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