David Perkins: On "Dead Body"

Though the tone of this is complex and difficult to define, one's first impression is not. To speak of a child's death as a "subtraction" is peculiar and oblique to the nth degree, and so also is calling it a "transaction." Reinforced by their rhyme, the terms inevitably suggest that the boy's death is not much felt by the speaker. "Foul" therefore seems a cold, half-comic hyperbole, and the "green bough" a cliché, though one that renders the semibiblical speech of this traditional community. But on reflection we note that since the speaker is not one of the kin, he can appropriately view the death from detached perspectives, and whatever sympathy he feels may be the more moving because it emerges through and despite his detachment. But no matter where we finally arrive in our response to this poem, the initial shock is chilling.


Title David Perkins: On "Dead Body" Type of Content Criticism
Criticism Author David Perkins Criticism Target John Crowe Ransom
Criticism Type Poet Originally Posted 25 May 2020
Publication Status Excerpted Criticism Publication A History of Modern Poetry: Modernism and After
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