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

Start Free Trial

What impact does Lucy's death have on the speaker in "She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways"?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Despite the fact that Lucy lived alone and "there were none to praise" her and "very few to love" her, her death makes all "The difference to [the poem's speaker]." Her death, perhaps, has made the poem's narrator all the more aware of his sense that Lucy was like "A violet by a mossy stone / Half hidden from the eye!" Maybe it was shyness that kept Lucy hidden from society, maybe she was ostracized for some reason, or maybe she simply preferred peace and quiet to noise and bustle. Regardless of why she kept to herself, she was, according to the speaker, as lovely as a flower or as "Fair as a star" if there were only one star visible in the night sky. Though there were not crowds to mark or note her passing, the fact of her death has greatly impacted the narrator and has made a significant difference in his own life. He feels sorrow over the loss of her life.

Approved by eNotes Editorial
An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

The key lines to answer this question are in the final stanza (lines 9-12):

She lived unknown, and few could know
        When Lucy ceased to be;
But she is in her grave, and, oh,
         The difference to me!

In this section, Wordsworth establishes two seemingly contradictory claims: first, he says Lucy was unknown and therefore hardly missed when she passed away. He also asserts that Lucy's death profoundly affected him. The implied effect on the speaker in this poem is one of sadness; despite the fact that Lucy seemed relatively unimportant, the speaker seems to be particularly grief-stricken upon hearing of her death. This detail is important, as Wordsworth suggests relative obscurity doesn't matter, and that largely unknown individuals can still be immensely important. This theme is one of the most vital ideas in the poem, and it is also essential within the context of Romantic poetry, which often glorified the individual set apart from society. 

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial