What do wild geese symbolize in the poem "Wild Geese" by Mary Oliver?

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beateach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In literature, wild geese are symbolic of compassion, community, and caring but also symbolize taking an individual path in life. If you apply this to Mary Oliver’s poem “Wild Geese,” she explains that you do not have to be good or repenting. It is more important to love the life you are living. She acknowledges that everyone will have difficulties and it is important to have someone to talk to and share tribulations with. This is much like geese when they take to migration. If one goose is disabled and unable to fly, another goose will stay with it until it is well or it dies. Her poem reminds readers that even during times of despair the world continues on, the geese continue to fly on their path, and each individual continues to have their place in the world. No matter how alone you might feel you are surrounded by the natural world, as are the geese in flight.

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Wild Geese

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