What is the tone of "To an Athlete Dying Young"?

The tone of "To an Athlete Dying Young" is a skillful mixture of the elegiac and the ironic. It's elegiac in that it pays tribute to the recently departed young athlete. It's ironic in that it appears at the same time to be subtly critiquing the values of a society that places so much emphasis on the attainment of earthly glory.

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At first, it seems that the tone of "To an Athlete Dying Young" is straightforwardly elegiac, the kind of tone one would expect from a poem written to commemorate the life of someone recently departed. As the early stanzas make clear, the young man was a local hero whose winning of a race brought immense joy to the people of his hometown.

But it isn't very long before a subtle change in tone can be observed. The day of the young man's funeral is described as celebratory, in much the same way as the town celebrated his remarkable feats of athleticism. The reason for this is that, because the athlete died young, his glory was never able to fade, and so can be preserved and celebrated by the local townsfolk.

Further irony can be observed in the third stanza, where the speaker strongly implies that the young man made a smart move in dying, by removing himself from the earth, a place where glory is fleeting. The further implication here is that the young man committed suicide before his glory,...

(The entire section contains 3 answers and 586 words.)

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