woman sitting among purple grass at night with a flower on her chest and in her long, flowing hair

She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways

by William Wordsworth

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How does Wordsworth's "She dwelt among the untrodden ways" represent romanticism?

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William Wordsworth's "She dwelt among the untrodden ways" is an exemplar of Romantic literature. Wordsworth uses nature and imagination to represent Romanticism and the poem is focused on emotion rather than love as many believe. Analyzing Wuthering Heights By Annie Gilbertson

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Romantic literature is typically thought to contain thoughts of grandeur regarding love. In fact, love has little to do with the Romantic period at all. While love may erupt in Romantic texts as a secondary theme, it is not one of the characteristics which define Romantic literature.

The characteristics typical...

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of Romantic literature came about as a rebuttal to the preceding period (Realism or The Age of Reason). Therefore, the Romantic period explored emotion and intuition over reason. Romantics also explored the importance of nature and imagination.

As for Wordsworth's poem "She dwelt among the untrodden ways", this text exemplifies the Romantic genre by highlighting nature: "springs of Dove" and "a violet by a mossy stone". Not only does Wordsworth use nature to exemplify the Romantic qualities of the poem, he also focuses on the feeling of the poem. (Here is where many believe that the theme of love is necessary to make a text Romantic- simplistically it is emotion which signifies Romanticism not only love). While Wordsworth's poem is not about love, one could interpret that he is feeling the loss of one who could have been loved.

Wordsworth is using his imagination to understand why the woman in the poem has lived a life alone, "among the untrodden path". The description of her life is one of solitude and beauty. Wordsworth seems to simply be focusing on those ideals and the fact that she should have been known by others.

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How does William Wordsworth make the poem "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways" emotional and significant?

This poem is significant because of its focus on a simple, obscure young woman. Though this may seem odd to us now, at the time Wordsworth composed these verses, it was unusual to write poetry—especially complimentary poetry—about common people. (An exception is Gray's earlier poem, "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard," and Wordsworth, in his poem, echoes Gray's theme of simple people dying unknown and unseen.) Wordsworth's focus is on elevating and celebrating the worth of lower-class individuals, which he felt called to do (he explains this later in his autobiographical poem The Prelude).

Although the poem is short and uses simple words, Wordsworth is able to convey deep emotion through the quietude of the speaker's grief. The simple strokes outlining Lucy's life, depicting her as a person who had "none to praise" and who "very few" loved, adds to the poignancy of her death. The lack of detail gives her a universal quality: we can all probably think of someone who is completely unknown but whose life made a difference to the few she did touch.

Further, the speaker conveys his deep feelings through the use of exclamation marks, such as in the lines

A violet by a mossy stone
Half hidden from the eye!
The imagery—such as comparing Lucy to a violet—conveys her gentleness, and the nature imagery—comparing her to a flower and star—conveys a sense of both her beauty and her purity.
Finally, by the end of the poem, we sense that the poem is brief because the speaker cannot find adequate words for his grief. His silence is eloquent, as is his final, heartfelt couplet:
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
The difference to me!
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