Not Waving but Drowning Essay

949 Words Jul 2nd, 2013 4 Pages
NOT WAVING BUT DROWNING
BY STEVIE SMITH

NOT WAVING BUT DROWNING
BY STEVIE SMITH

The poem ‘Not Waving But Drowning’, by Stevie Smith, is a poem in which there is a drowning man at sea. In this poem, the poet is talking about the difficulty of communication and the fundamental isolation of the individual in modern society. The title of the poem gives us an immediate indication that the poem will tackle a serious matter. The poem contains three voices; the drowning man, the observers and the people on the beach. It can be interpreted on both a literal and metaphorical level of meaning.
Stevie Smith (Florence Margaret) was born in Hull, Yorkshire. She was both a novelist and poet. Smith was born in 1902 and died in
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In the first line he is described as the dead man and we might ask ourselves whether he has always failed to exist for those around him. The word ‘moaning’, can indicate that the man is still crying out for help and that throughout his life, his cries for help have gone unheard. The people on the beach are not aware that he is actually drowning, just as nobody seemed to be aware of or interested in his problems. The words ‘I was much further out than you thought’, demonstrate the distance both physical but especially psychological between himself and the rest of the world. The line ‘And not waving but drowning’, underlines the difficulties that other people might be going through.
In the second stanza, the people often on the beach do not seem to show any genuine feeling or sorrow. By stating that the drowned man always loved larking, they reveal that they did not know him at all. We are left with the image of a man desperately putting on a happy front to gain the attention and appreciation of others, but constantly being misinterpreted and misunderstood. Maybe, he simply felt too ashamed to admit to his problems when everyone around him seemed to be coping perfectly. The observers are almost flippant in their attitude to the drowning man. The punctuation in this stanza also points this out. The enjambment in the first and second lines give ‘larking’ and ‘dead’ the same emphasis and

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