How does the speaker’s concept of death differ from the little girl’s in William Wordsworth's “We Are Seven”?
How does the poem use conventions of Romantic poetry to examine this difference in perspective?
William Wordsworth’s poem “We Are Seven” is built around a contrast between the speaker’s view of death and the views held by a little girl. Among the differences in their perspectives are the following:
- The speaker takes for granted that the girl, because of her age, knows little about death (4), but the rest of the poem may imply that she knows more than he assumes.
- The speaker assumes that because two of the girl’s siblings are physically dead and are buried in a nearby churchyard, their existence has ceased (35-36). The girl, however, assumes – and repeatedly insists – that they are somehow still alive.
- The speaker seems to assume that once a person is dead and buried, that person is forgotten. The young girl, however, seems to assume that even though a person is dead and buried, that person is still, somehow, a part of one’s life. Thus, referring to the graves where her siblings are buried, she says,
“My stockings there I often knit,
My kerchief there I hem;
And there upon the ground I sit,
And sing a song to them.” (41-44)
- The speaker seems to assume that even if the souls of the dead are in heaven, they are not alive on earth, but the little girl seems to assume just the opposite (61-64).
This poem uses a variety of conventions of Romantic literature to emphasize its meanings. Among those conventions are the following:
- An innocent, virtuous child whose knowledge may be superior to the knowledge of adults.
- Simple, straightforward phrasing.
- An emphasis on rural life.
- An emphasis on the joys of youth.
- A use of lyric form.
- An emphasis on individual experience relayed by the person who lived that experience.
- An implied admiration for the wisdom of rural folk.