“Death of a Young Son by Drowning”

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Margaret Atwood's poetry "Death of a Young Son by Drowning" describes a mother's flashback to the death of her son. The words and sound used in this poem suggest a tragic theme and offer a dramatic example of a gloomy mood. The mother is saddened by the fact that her son has died. The poem's underlying theme, grief, has brought the poem to a culmination and drawn the reader in, causing him or her to sympathize with the author. Sadness is the core theme of the novel, and it reflects the poem's controlling concept. The sorrowful theme of the poem is crafted and developed in the entire poem is identified and assessed through the tone of the language, the title and the literary devices employed in the poem.

Explication Death of a Young Son by Drowning

The title of the poem welcomes the reader to the sadness and the traumatic experience found in the poem. The title “Death of a Young Son by Drowning” is important as it informs the reader about the events happening in the poem. The poem is able to tell that the poem is about the death of a son and that the son lost his death through drowning. Arguably, the title used by Atwood opens the sadness and the traumatic factors in the poem. The title has critically served as a tool for attracting the reader in reading the poem, created suspense and connected reader.

Notably, this theme has been emphasized through the somber tone and the language that Atwood has used in throughout the poem and profoundly enabled the reader to interpret and understand the poem. The mother was not prepared to welcome the death of her son, and she grieves on realizing that she is actually dead and that she was not dreaming. Undisputedly, the poem of “Death of Young Son by drowning” carries a tone and language of traumatic experiences which have pervaded the entire poem to the extent of creating a feeling of depression in the mind of the reader. Indeed, tone and language in the poem have enhanced the experience and the literature conveying feelings of the author in a rhetorically persuasive manner.

Undoubtedly, through the sad theme, Atwood intended to show that the Canadian waters act as a deadly weapon the kill people. Canada is surrounded by massive water, and many people end up losing their lives through it. The mother sadly describes how her son becomes immersed in the Canadian waters. The mother says that the eyes of her son are "thin glass bubbles," and the plans that the mother had for her son are described as "swamped body" (Atwood 18). Sadly, the future hope of the son becomes perished in the Canadian waters. Metaphorically, the mother notes in line 22 that the son has found new "spring" and the "new grass" (Atwood 18). The speaker is not able to save her son and therefore leaves the unstable Canadian waves to swallow him.

Additionally, the literary devices used by Atwood have helped in conveying the theme of sadness which has pervaded the poem. Notably, the poem uses literary devices like personification, imagery, metaphor, and simile to help the reader in interpreting the poem and to know that death brings sorrow. Personification in the poem is evident from line 22 and 23 where the speaker says "the new grass leapt to solidity" (Atwood 18). This personification is used to represent the sadness of the mother by use of the grass. The personification has showcased the human entity in a lively and vivid manner. The simile used creates a picture in the mind of the reader through the comparison of objects. For example, the speaker says “Planting the child like a flag” which is a simile depicting the reality of the situation. Also, the metaphoric representation of the death of the son shows the reality of the traumatic circumstances. The metaphor is evident in lines 11 and 13 where the speaker says "his head a bathysphere/through his eyes' thin glass bubbles/ he looked out" (Atwood 18). A bathysphere is a spherical chamber that is utilized in deep observation of a sea. Metaphorically, this shows how the mother was intensely observing her son as he becomes engulfed by the Canadian waters. Interestingly, Atwood uses metaphor in his poem to depict an element of realism. Magnificently, the metaphor has served a practical function of allowing the reader to understand the poem deeply. The metaphor has also helped the reader to deeply understand the poem together with drawing the reader close to the sad feelings of the mother. Imagery is also evident in lines seven to ten where the speaker says "His feet slid on the bank, / the currents took him /he swirled with ice and trees in the swollen water/ and plunged into distant regions” (Atwood 18). The lines image what is happening in the story.


Death in a family is a shocking experience, and it becomes more devastating when the circumstances leading to the death are unforeseen such as drowning. Furthermore, the death of a young person creates sadness in the reader. The poem gives an impression of the attitude of the speaker. The tone of the poem is emotional showing the lifeless of the mother who has unexpectedly lost her son.

Work Cited

Atwood, Margaret. “Death of a Young Son by Drowning.” The Norton Introduction to Literature. Tenth. New York: 2010.

November 03, 2022

Literature Family


Literary Genres Illness

Subject area:

Poetry Death Mother

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