I need a summary of Elegy for a Dead Soldier by Karl Shapiro.  I cannot find anything about it on the internet!

1 Answer

mizzwillie's profile pic

mizzwillie | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Senior Educator

Posted on

As a poet, Karl Shapiro tries in this poem, Elegy for a Dead Soldier, to neither make the soldier a hero nor to glorify the war.  He does not condemn the war as unconscionable.  He chooses the middle ground of an observer, distancing himself and the reader from the dead soldier.  Shapiro describes the soldier and the scene with the chaplain, but really is not very emotional  about it.  An elegy is a poem of lament or praise for the dead, and in this case, Shapiro laments the common experiences he imagines the soldier had just as every soldier has. The soldier's death is like the death of every soldier, one alone in its experience and often the forgotten man.  Soldiers die, often alone and forgotten,  and peace will come in part because of this death.  The poem is very long, but if we the readers remember a soldier's death as the death of a human being doing his job as a soldier, then his sacrifice is worth something.