illustration of a country churchyward with a variety of gravestones

Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard

by Thomas Gray

Start Free Trial

In "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," what are 5 allegorical figures that the speaker uses to illustrate humanity?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The speaker of the poem represents humankind and contemplates man's destiny and death. The "rude forefathers" also symbolize humanity as well.  All human beings are going to die no matter how rich they are or how famous they are while living. The speaker then divides humans into categories based on their characteristics and attitudes. He says "Ambition" and "Grandeur" shouldn't think less of poor people because they didn't accomplish great things. "Pride" and "Memory" have no right to ignore or forget them, and "Honor" and "Flattery" will no longer be useful to the rich once they are dead. The speaker, who is educated, doesn't even consider "Knowledge" to be a factor in making someone a good person.

The speaker also speculates what many of the poor could have accomplished if they had been given the opportunity to do so. They too could have been a great leader or a great poet if given the chance. But then the speaker also says that even though the poor accomplished nothing of greatness, they are probably morally superior to the wealthy and the famous.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial Team