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Analysis of To an Athlete Dying Young in Terms of the Tones, Word Choice, Imageries, Sounds and Symbols

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Choice of the appropriate words in poetry is so important that poets take great pains to find the right word. An effective poet is able to make use of words that suggests both connotations and denotations. “ Poets often strive for words that point to physical details and solid objects” even when they are speaking about abstract ideas (Chapter 3: Word Choice and Word Order 49). On the other hand, there are poets who make use of concrete words that can be immediately perceived with the senses of the reader; there are also poets who employ allusions, rural diction, dialogues, colloquial and formal English, and specific dialects in their poems.

In “ To an Athlete Dying Young" one can come across both concrete and abstract diction. The first two stanzas make use of concrete diction whereby the reader can feel both the processions of the athlete. Expressions such as ‘ won the race’ , ‘ chaired’ , ‘ market-place’ and ‘ shoulder-high’ bring concrete images to the minds of the reader. There is also rural diction in the poem; diction such as ‘ fields’ , ‘ laurel’ , ‘ withers’ , and ‘ rose’ offer a rural background to the setting of the poem.

Instances for abstract diction include ‘ silence’ , ‘ night’ , and ‘ echoes’ . Thus, it can be concluded that the choice of words in the poem aptly suit the setting and tone of the poem. In poetry, images refer to “ a word or sequence of words that refers to any sensory experience” and there can be visual imageries, auditory imageries, and tactile imageries (Chapter 5: Imagery 84). The images in a poem add to the beauty of the poem as it enhances the sensory experiences of the reader.

A variety of visual imageries dominate the poem. The first two stanzas offer the reader the visual images of the athlete being carried on ‘ shoulder-high’ , first during his victory march and later on his funeral procession. The images of the growth of the ‘ laurel’ and it's withering away in the third stanza bring tactile imageries to the imagination of the reader.

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