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ENGLISH 11

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Richard Bone by Edgar Lee Masters:

When I first came to Spoon River
I did not know whether what they told me
Was true or false.
They would bring me an epitaph
And stand around the shop while I worked
And say "He was so kind," "He was wonderful,"
"She was the sweetest woman," "He was a consistent Christian."
And I chiseled for them whatever they wished,
All in ignorance of its truth.
But later, as I lived among the people here,
I knew how near to the life
Were the epitaphs that were ordered for them when they died.
But still I chiseled whatever they paid me to chisel
And made myself party to the false chronicles
Of the stones,
Even as the historian does who writes
Without knowing the truth,
Or because he is influenced to hide it.

1) why does he feel shame?


2) what is he saying about the history we learn from books and newspapers?

I really don't understand poems, could someone please answer these 2 questions!!!!!! Thanx

  • ENGLISH 11 -

    Spoon River Anthology is an entire collection of poems that tell about different people who live in a fictional small town in the American midwest.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoon_River_Anthology

    In this poem, Richard Bone is clearly the guy who makes headstones for people's graves.
    When I first came to Spoon River
    I did not know whether what they told me
    Was true or false.
    They would bring me an epitaph
    And stand around the shop while I worked
    ...
    And I chiseled for them whatever they wished,
    All in ignorance of its truth.


    He puts on the headstones whatever the people tell him to, but after he lived in the town for a longer and longer time, he realized that those words were mostly lies.
    But later, as I lived among the people here,
    I knew how near to the life
    Were the epitaphs that were ordered for them when they died.
    But still I chiseled whatever they paid me to chisel
    And made myself party to the false chronicles
    Of the stones,


    And then he compares himself to historians who write whatever they want, without caring if it's the truth or not.
    Even as the historian does who writes
    Without knowing the truth,
    Or because he is influenced to hide it.


    So ... how will you answer those two questions?

  • ENGLISH 11 -

    i don't understand the first one but for the second question i think his saying that the history we learn from books and newspapers is not always the truth

  • ENGLISH 11 -

    That's right for the second question.

    What do you think this means?

    But still I chiseled whatever they paid me to chisel
    And made myself party to the false chronicles
    Of the stones,

  • ENGLISH 11 -

    didnt care, just wanted moneY?

  • ENGLISH 11 -

    In a few analysis I've seen how the names reflect his work. Richard (Living) Bone (dead)
    Paraphrase (Each return is a separate thought):

    When I arrived in my new home
    I began to work and what they ordered
    Didn't seem honest

    They would bring me what they wanted the tombstones/ grave marker to say
    And stand around and gossip/reminisce
    And say nice things about these dead folks (two lines of compliments)

    And I did my job
    Writing epitaphs about their allusions of these dead people

    ... More analyzing later
    Sorry Class is over

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