Poetry Explication on Adam’s Curse by William Butler Yeats

In order to write an explication response, you should follow these seven steps in the order they are listed and respond to each prompt in a short paragraph:

1. Literal content. Before you try to explain and interpret, you must understand what is literally happening. Ask yourself these questions: Who is the speaker (narrator) or what kind of person is the speaker? What is the occasion or context of the poem? What is the setting in time (hour, season, century, etc.) and place (indoors or out, city or country, land or sea, etc.)?

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2. Summarize. Once you have identified the elements above, provide a brief summary of the poem in your own words, following the sequence given by the poet. Refer to the previous “How to Paraphrase a Poem” hand out.

3. Purpose/Theme. Identify the central purpose or theme of the poem, and state it in a single sentence.

4. Tone. Once you understand the literal meaning of the poem and have identified the central purpose, begin to look at tone. What is the tone? How is it achieved? Is there a change in tone (tonal shift) during the poem? When does it occur and why does it occur?

5. Diction (Choice of Words). Point out words that are particularly well-chosen in relation to tone. Answer the question: Why did the poet choose the words he used and why did he use them in that order? Remember, you are analyzing and interpreting here.

6. Figurative Language. Examine the passage carefully for allusions, similes, personification, metaphors, paradox, hyperbole, understatement, irony, etc. These are “vessels of meaning.” Why are they used? What are their effects?

7. Structure. Describe the form or pattern of the poem. Point out significant examples of sound repetition and explain their function.

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