Analysis of "Not Waving but Drowning" by Stevie Smith

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Josh Robinson
Dr. Joyce Huff
ENG 206
Feb 5, 2013
Not Waving but Drowning

People may not always be exactly what they seem on the outside just as a poem may have a deeper meaning than the story that is just on the surface. The poem Not Waving but Drowning by Stevie Smith is a great example of this. The author does a very good job at relating the death of a man by drowning and the reaction it causes in others to the deeper story of how the man is symbolically calling out to others who never come to help him get his life together.

In the beginning of the poem, the first two lines are somewhat confusing. It refers to the main character as “the dead man” but then in the next line it mentions how he is moaning. This is confusing of course because as we all know, a dead man can’t make sounds. The next sentence though, seems more straightforward at first glance but as you move farther in the poem it’s meaning might not be so obvious.

In the second stanza there is a change from what seems to be the dead man speaking to others talking about what he was like when he was alive. It shows how, to other people, the man seemed happy, but it also seems as though the author means to give the impression that other people think that it was this one event that caused the man to finally break down. He says in the next stanza however that “…it was too cold always” which I think shows that he is saying that it was not merely one event that caused him to “drown”. His entire life consisted of reaching out to others for help but he never received it. In the beginning of the second stanza I would also like to point out how the author added “Poor chap” separated with a comma. I think the commas are likely used to emphasize that label that the author puts on the man from the viewpoint of others. It, in a way, shows how others may pity this man because of how great he had it until this single event. This is ironic because if you read the poem more than once, you’ll see that in...
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