“Death’s a fierce meadowlark: but to die having madeSomething more equal to the centuriesThan muscle and bone, is mostly to shed weakness.The mountains are dead stone, the peopleAdmire or hate...

“Death’s a fierce meadowlark: but to die having made
Something more equal to the centuries
Than muscle and bone, is mostly to shed weakness.
The mountains are dead stone, the people
Admire or hate their stature, their insolent quietness,
The mountains are not softened or troubled
And a few dead men’s thoughts have the same temper.”

-Robinson Jeffers, “Wise Men in Their Bad Hours”

1. Identify the metaphors in this poem. List them here. What tone (attitude) is conveyed by each?

 2. Identify the personification in this poem.  What non-human item is given human characteristics? What effect does that have on the mood of the poem?

3. Respond to the following prompt in a paragraph 7-10 sentences long: Given that Chris McCandless knew he was likely to die, what would be his motivation for including this poem in his journal just before his death? How did he want himself/his actions to be judged by those who would find this poem?  Connect the use of figurative language to his purpose.

Expert Answers
shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

For questions 1 and 2 please see the following eNotes post: 


A discussion of question 3 follows here:

John Krakauer's Into the Wild tells the story of Chris McCandless, who tragically tries to survive in the Alaskan Wilderness. He is confident, but unprepared, and meets with a difficult end. 

McCandless leaves the poetic excerpt among his belongings to be found when his body is discovered. It is appropriate to the situation because it relates the power of nature (meadowlark, mountains, stone) to man's place in the natural world. We see that nature is indifferent to man in the words "their insolent quietness" which characterize the mountains as apart from man and unconcerned with him.

McCandless might have been trying to say that the natural world is bigger than any of us, and it is not possible for one man to survive in an inhospitable environment if he is not fully prepared, and as it turns out McCandless is not prepared, although he probably thought he was beforehand. He probably wanted to be seen as brave and adventurous and part of the grandeur that is the natural world.

The following two lines might reflect his last thoughts: 

The mountains are not softened or troubled

And a few dead men’s thoughts have the same temper.”

If McCandless was fully aware of his impending death, he might have wanted to communicate that he was one of the "few men" who could leave life, like the mountains, unsoftened and untroubled.

Read the study guide:
Into the Wild

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