A Poetry Analysis: the Solitary Reaper

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Updated: Aug 18, 2023
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The title, “The Solitary Reaper,” could be misinterpreted in this time period as a poem with the theme of death involved; however, this is not William Wordsworth’s intent. “The Solitary Reaper” hints at being another poem written under the veil of the literary period of Romanticism at this stage of history. This could lead to a misunderstanding for the reader, as the title of a work is crucial; it is what the author felt best fit the expression of their work.

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Wordsworth’s “The Solitary Reaper” excels beyond the standards held by the Romanticism period. The title itself already conveys a basic understanding of the poem. Wordsworth’s intelligent use of setting strengthens the stance held behind the title, followed by his use of diction in the description of the female, her song, and the narrator. Wordsworth’s assonance and alliteration are great additions to his poem as they subliminally lead the reader to understand what Wordsworth intends for them to find.

The title “The Solitary Reaper” implies the poem is about a farmer who is alone in a field, a notion that can understandably be mistaken as a signifier of death. However, Wordsworth instead tells of a person harvesting crops alone. This aligns with the themes of the literary period of his time, Romanticism, as it invokes a sense of nature and the power of the individual. People of that time period would grasp that Wordsworth’s poem is set under the veil of the Romanticism period, signaling an exceptional work of literature.

The setting of “The Solitary Reaper” contributes to the title of the poem, as Scotland was very rural at the time. Wordsworth chose Scotland because of the emphasis he placed on the female’s loneliness. Scotland best fits this description due to its ruralness. It was a very wide space with few people to occupy it. Wordsworth describes the woman as alone in four of the first five lines of the poem, clearly placing importance on her. In rural Scotland, a lone reaper in a field is not surprising, yet the narrator cannot help but be allured by the sight of her.

The narrator then describes a song that she is singing, which appears to capture his attention most about the female. The song can be described as melancholic; however, the narrator is unable to understand what the song is about, owing to his inability to comprehend her native tongue. Nevertheless, this does not deter him from attempting to guess its content. In this, Wordsworth carefully chooses his words to describe the poem, aiming to best project what the narrator is hearing and seeing.

Wordsworth utilizes metaphors in his description of her song. In his first metaphor, the narrator claims her to be superior to a nightingale singing to weary travelers among Arabian sands. The bird appears to create a break from the reality that surrounds the travelers, as Wordsworth describes its tone as welcoming. This helps the reader understand the effect of the female reaper’s song on the narrator. The song is not necessarily sad in the way of regret, but in a thoughtful aspect. The second metaphor Wordsworth places in the same stanza supports this claim, as the narrator believes that the music of a cuckoo bird breaking the silence of the ocean does not compare to the song of the woman. In the midst of the ocean, such trivial things as a cuckoo bird do not seem to be of any importance, yet its effect on perspective remains significant. These metaphors reveal the narrator’s interpretation of the song, as he is enticed by its beauty. These common objects have meaning, just as this song does in the fields of Scotland.

Wordsworth uses alliteration in his metaphors to create a smooth, pleasant sound for the reader and to add focus to its effects on the narrator. This enhances the significance of the stanzas. While the reader may have some idea of what the narrator is hearing, it strengthens their understanding further.

The theme of the poem, viewing everyday events with significant importance through the imagination, already features in the first two stanzas of the poem through the descriptions of the song. It later reappears in the narrator’s assumptions about the content of it. The narrator wonders if it describes unhappy events and battles from long ago, or if it speaks about the abundance of days we live mechanically. Regardless of the interpretation the narrator assigns to the song – just as birds’ songs bear meaning – so too do these perceptions align with the theme.

The battles and unhappy events that took place are what still affect her culture and land to this day. These events are a part of her heritage, and even though they are just a few among the history of the world, they are important to her and her land. In the days that seem to blend in, we do not advance in our lives. It is these days that become numerous, where we allow ourselves to place our hopes and dreams on hold. These days may appear to be infrequent or of no importance, but they soon combine and become numerous. We never realize their effect on us until it’s too late.

This highlights the importance of the female reaper. As she sings a song of mystery while reaping, it almost seems ironic that she is reaping what she has sown, while singing about what the author believes to be “reaping what you have sown”. This concept further supports the theme, emphasizing that we should regard minor things in life to be as important as major things. Furthermore, she is vital to the song. Being alone in the field, she doesn’t have to work because no one is there to hold her accountable. Yet, she continues to reap, fully aware of what even minor work can amount to.

Wordsworth’s theme is reinforced through the utilization of assonance. Assonance is evident in the second and third stanzas, and it creates a flow in the poem that follows the mood of the narrator. The narrator is so charmed by this woman that he doesn’t mention why he is there or if he has other obligations. In fact, we have very little information about the narrator except that he is also alone in the field. This is why assonance reinforces the attention to small details; it increases the length of pronunciation of words that were carefully chosen by the author. This effect amplifies the narrator’s intention to prolong his stay in that place.

The theory of death being involved in the poem, due to the use of the word “reaper” in the title, can be quite detrimental to the reading of the poem as the theme of death would be sought out in it, in any analysis.

Overall, Wordsworth employs literary devices and diction for a crucial reason, as all tremendous authors know that their words can have a profound effect on their works. Wordsworth’s choice to use these literary tools was important to his theme. Only he could express what was inside his mind, and he did so with an expertise that can only be mirrored by notable poets in history.

In “The Solitary Reaper,” Wordsworth remains true to his writing standards as he skillfully communicates his understanding and love for nature. Wordsworth’s works play a crucial role in the historical period of Romanticism, which is why they hold such importance. People of that time would instantly recognize another of Wordsworth’s classics devoted to his love for nature and the individual’s capacity to be a part of it.

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A Poetry Analysis: The Solitary Reaper. (2022, Aug 20). Retrieved from https://papersowl.com/examples/a-poetry-analysis-the-solitary-reaper/