illustrated portrait of American poet Robert Frost

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Discuss the theme childhood innocence in the poem "Going for Water."

Childhood innocence is undoubtedly one of the themes of "Going for Water." Like Jack and Jill in the famous nursery rhyme, the poem's characters go to fetch some water. That they do so at night indicates a certain innocence on their part. They are not scared because they feel that the natural world belongs to them. The theme of childhood innocence also manifests itself in the use of fairy tale imagery.

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In "Going for Water," childhood innocence is expressed primarily through the children's identification with the natural world around them. Because they enjoy such a close relationship with nature they don't think twice about venturing out into the chill autumn night to fill their pail with water.

The children's world is throughly enchanted, a magical place in which nothing bad every happens. As such, they can merrily wander through the woods at night in search of the brook, safe in the knowledge that no harm can come to them. This isn't just due to their innocence, but also to the close identification they have with the natural world. The natural world isn't a scary place for the children because they're not separated from it; on the contrary, they feel an intrinsic part of it. Even more than this, the natural world belongs to them; it is their kingdom, their domain.

The children's innocence is reinforced by the use of fairytale imagery. In the third stanza the children are described as being "like gnomes." This gives an air of unreality to the action of the poem, implying perhaps that childhood innocence is not to be found in the real world, the world we all inhabit, but only in some kind of magical fantasy world, the world of the imagination.

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