The Death of a Toad by Richard Wilbur

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Some people do not care or even notice killing a toad while mowing a lawn, but some do. In Richard Wilbur's poem, "The Death of a Toad", the speaker runs over and kills a toad while mowing his lawn and feels great distress for his action. The speaker shows sympathy for the amphibian as he describes the peaceful scene of the toad's fatal injury and his last minutes alive. Wilbur uses the formal elements of structure and syntax, diction, and imagery to help convey the speaker's sadness towards the death of a toad. From his "hobbling hop" (line 2) to his "antique eyes" (16), the speaker exemplifies his sympathetic feelings toward the creature's death.

Wilbur's excellent use of diction can be seen throughout all three stanzas. Beginning with a more casual array of words, he quickly progresses to a more dark and gloomy selection. The dismal words throughout the poem, including "dim" (5), "low" (6), "staring" (8), and "gutters" (9), help to represent the speaker's grave emotion towards the toad. Wilbur describes the actual injury of the toad to be quiet simple and not so harsh. He uses the phrase "chewed and clipped" (2) instead of using ruthless words like slashed or hacked, once again giving the poem a soft and peaceful feeling of death. Wilbur depicts the toad's age in a tranquil manner, as well. The toad, with his "folds and wizenings" (8), which can be associated with wrinkles and creases of an elderly countenance, and his "hobbling hop" (2), which depicts perhaps an elderly walk, comes to terms with his injury and old age and decides to accept his death. Certain words seem to take on a soothing meaning and help convey the sympathy the speaker is feeling: "sanctuaried" (3) comes from the word sanctuary, a holy or sacred place; "heartshaped leaves" (5) are prettier and more consoling than jagged and pointed edges of leaves. Serenity continues into the toad's afterlife as he drifts into toad heaven, "lost Amphibia's emperies" (14). The toad is moving...
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