Describe the speaker in Millay's poem "Lament".

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lsumner | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Senior Educator

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The speaker in "Lament" is matter of fact in stating to the children that "your father is dead...life must go on." Contrary to the title of this poem, there is no lamenting on the part of the speaker. Without missing a beat, the speaker is taking the clothing belonging to the deceased father and turning it into "little jackets" and "little trousers" for the his children. While there is something to be admired in the strength of the speaker who speaks of death as if is an everyday, usual occurrence, there is something disturbing in the speaker's unsympathetic tone of voice. On the other hand, the reader could sense that the speaker is forcing a sense of acceptance in the face of death. Again, why is the poem entitled "Lament" when the speaker is far from lamenting in tone of voice?

The irony in the title "Lament" is that the speaker has a "get-over-it" and "life-must-go-on" attitude in reference to the dead father. It is as if the speaker is trying to be detached from the dead father too immediately. There is no time for grieving. There is no reason to remember the deceased father. The speaker's attitude is too deliberate in the immediate forgetting of a possibily cherished loved one. This could be a facade on the part of the speaker or a play on satire. The fact that the poem is entitled "Lament" is a clue to the reader that the speaker does have something or someone worthy to lament. The speaker's decision to abruptly forget the dead father is perhaps the speaker's best way deal with the pain of a loss that is too unbearable to express. There is evidence of this analysis when the speaker states that "good men die" to only be forgotten for "life must go on," and "I forget just why" is the speaker's satirical response to the fact that death is believed by society to be a "normal" part of life.                         

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