Thomas Gray's "Sonnet on the Death of Mr Richard West" - an Analysis

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Analysis – Poetry

Sonnet on the Death of Mr. Richard West
Thomas Gray

1. Communicative Situation, Theme and Figurative Speech

a) Communicative Situation

In the poem “Sonnet on the Death of Mr. Richard West” by Thomas Gray, the speaker can be identified by the use of personal pronouns of the first person singular “me” (l.1) and “I” (l.13), as well as the possessive pronoun “my” (l.7,8). It can be assumed that the speaker is male, since he mentions “happier men” (l.10), which could indicate that they are happier than he is, thus an “unhappy man”. Given that there are neither any personal pronouns of the second person nor is the speaker addressing anybody directly, e.g. by using imperatives, the addressee cannot be identified by the use of deictics. However, the speaker says “I fruitless mourn to him that cannot hear” (l.13), which discloses the addressee as a person that is not able to hear or react to the speaker, presumably Mr. Richard West, since he is the one who has apparently died. Throughout the poem, the speaker appears to be quite sad, depressed and unable to appreciate anything joy- or beautiful surrounding him.

b) Theme

The general theme of the poem is the speaker’s grievance, sadness and loneliness. However, the poem can be divided into various sections throughout which the theme develops. In the first section (lines 1-4) the speaker describes his surroundings, the rising sun, the singing birds and the green fields, in which he cannot find the joy these things are usually told to bring. In the second section (lines 5-8) the speaker illustrates the effect his sadness has on his own body, saying that his ears and eyes long to hear and see something else than what he perceives. He states that he is the only one who understands and feels this pain (see l.7) and that he is unable to feel joy. The third section (lines 9-12) contains observations of other...
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