How does the personification of the cross in "The Dream of the Rood" help convey the poem's hopeful theme? 

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The personification of the cross in this medieval poem is important in conveying the poem's theme of hope because of the message that the cross itself brings. It talks of its own story, and how it was transformed from the ultimate image of destitution, misery and suffering, into something that was unbelievably precious and life-giving, as Christian doctrine dictates. As Christ's death, as terrible as that was, enabled God to give his free gift of grace to all people, the transformation that the cross undergoes and talks about it something that gives hope to the speaker in the poem and the way that he ends being full of hope, no matter what sufferings and difficulties mark his life in the present. Note the following quote that captures how the speaker feels having heard the story of the cross:

I look forward to the time when the cross of the Lord

that I previously saw here on the earth,

in this temporary life, will fetch me,

and will then bring me to where great bliss is,

joy in the heavens, where the Lord’s people are

seated at the feast, where perpetual joy is...

Hearing the cross's personal story that is narrated to the speaker enhances the tranformative message of the cross and the sacrifice that Jesus made. Just as the cross transformed from a method of death, tortune and profound suffering, so to can those who follow God be transformed themselves and look forward to an eternity in heaven. The cross, through its personification in this poem, points towards the ultimate transformation that awaits all those who are faithful to God.

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