What is the theme of the poem "The Village Schoolmaster" by Oliver Goldsmith?

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Doug Stuva | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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"The Village Schoolmaster" by Goldsmith is a lighthearted reflection of a village schoolmaster, but a more serious comment on a public policy.

"Enclosure" was a policy that allowed the wealthy to fence off their land.  This prevented villagers, lower class workers and those who didn't own land, from grazing cattle and letting pigs forage, etc., and led to many small villages becoming deserted.  The fence in the poem has been neglected, and the gorse has been allowed to grow wild, instead of being collected for fuel, all because the village is deserted due to enclosure.

The schoolmaster was beloved, but he should not be misinterpreted as scholarly or brilliant.  Students laugh at his jokes so that they don't get in trouble, and he impresses the uneducated villagers with big words, etc.  He also continues to argue even after he has lost.  In other words, he was stubborn.

Yet, he was well-liked and is remembered.  But the village which liked him is no longer inhabited.  

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