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A theme is a universal truth that a reader can glean from a piece of literature. Two poems that have similar themes are "Casabianca" by Felicia Dorothea Hemans and "The Charge of the Light Brigade" by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Both poems focus on the subject of a subordinate who follows orders during a military confrontation even though the orders are not well conceived and will result in the subordinate's death.
In "Casabianca," the hero of the poem is a young boy whose father has commanded him to remain on the deck of the ship. Although the ship is under attack, the boy will not move from the place his father has told him to stand. He calls for his father to obtain permission to move, but since he hears no reply, he remains and perishes with the ship. It turns out that his father is incapacitated below and unable to respond to his son's cries. Readers cannot help but wish that the father had given his son more complete orders that would have allowed him to save himself if he was unable to gain a reply from his father.
In "The Charge of the Light Brigade," Tennyson writes of a battle during the Crimean War when a commanding officer gave a mistaken order that sent the British cavalry into a death trap with cannons on three sides as they rode into "the Valley of Death." The majority of the six hundred horsemen perished as a result. Tennyson acknowledges the fact that "someone had blundered." In fact, the orders had gotten confused.
In both poems, the poet chooses to focus on the valor of the subordinates rather than on the foolishness of the superiors who did not act with the welfare of those under them in mind. Hemans writes that "the noblest thing which perished there was that young faithful heart." Likewise, Tennyson praises the horsemen, calling on readers to "Honor the charge they made! Honor the Light Brigade! Noble six hundred!"
Thus both poems share the theme that in a military conflict, those who perish while obeying orders, even if those orders are mistaken, deserve high praise and honor.
The poems "Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night" by Dylan Thomas and "Annabel Lee" by Edgar Allen Poe share themes of death, love, and confronting loss.
Your teacher will almost definitely want to prove that (a) each poem features these themes and that (b) the poems are similar in their representation of the themes. To do so, here are my suggestions:
- You know what themes you are looking for. Go through each poem and find 3-5 quotations that you think display one or more of these themes.
- For each quotation, explain exactly why/how the theme is present in the quotation. It's not enough to just say that it's there - what makes it there? Is it in the imagery? The figurative language? The tone? Try and be as specific as possible.
- Write 1-2 lines about how/why these poems are similar. Don't just say that they share these themes! Explain what about these themes makes them resemble each other.
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