Please analyze The Tables Turned by William Wordsworth. This is a study guide question posted by eNotes Editorial. Your literary analysis may touch on a variety of topics, including (but not limited to) discussions of the author’s style, the use of symbols or motifs, or the broader historical or literary context in which the work was written.

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An analysis of a text's title can lead to illuminating interpretations and ideas. This poem's title—"The Tables Turned"—is a phrase that does not appear in the body of the poem at all. The expression "to turn the tables" typically refers to a reversal of some sort: for a victim to gain the upper hand on his attacker, perhaps, or for the innocent child to know more than the smug adult. In this poem, the speaker simply implores his friend—perhaps the reader herself—to put down her books and go outside, allowing nature to be her "teacher." The poem begins,

Up! up! my Friend, and quit your books;

The speaker sees that books are causing his friend "toil and trouble" and believes that going outside to see the "first sweet evening yellow" on the green fields, listening to the linnet's song, and being in the woods will end this trouble and do more for his friend than any book can. It is somewhat ironic that this point is being made by a writer in a book. Wordsworth's contemporaries would have read this poem in a collection which had been printed in a book, and yet his speaker tells them to put the book down and go outside, because nature is a far better teacher of truth than he ever could be. The writer, then, succeeds in "turning the tables" for his readers; rather than the reader tiring of the writer or the writing, the text itself directly instructs its reader to get "Up! up!" and go outside to experience the "ready wealth" and blessings of nature. The speaker even claims that nature can teach us more about ourselves, about the nature of good and evil, than a book can. The tables have been turned.

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