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“Growing Old” by Matthew Arnold Essay

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Updated: Dec 7th, 2021

This poem is sending a clear message about the process through which people go through as they grow old. The author points out what it means to grow old in terms of form and shape in the first and second stanzas. The poem mentions that there is reflection in the past when there were dreams which are now not true. It is not to view the world from a perspective and think about how the past was filled with many things. In the last three verses the author indicates that this process is about spending long and painful days alone, feeling life deep in our hearts without emotions and lastly we are lost in thoughts of how the world is putting blame on the man who lived.

The choice for this particular poem is perfect for me because of the fact that I have very relatives that I can associate with it. Specifically both my parents are aging and it is obvious that each and everyone will undergo this process. My mother especially is not in good health and I can clearly see the pain and suffering that is expressed in the poem. This poem makes me realize how it is important to be prepared for this inevitable process in life. This is because of the fact that I am in my late forties and it is clear that the addressed age is not very far from me.

The language in which the poem has been written is quite commendable and I really have a passion for the words that have been used in the poem. In fact everybody despite age differences can read and enjoy this poem.

The biography of the author reveals that his early life was full of many things. For instance he used to do many things in his life. This included things like going to clubs, he liked going out for dinner and he was also fond of fishing and shooting. All this things influenced his poetic language and styles. In this particular poem he mentions “And weep, and feel the fulness of the past, The years that are no more!”. By these words he reveals that indeed his past life was full of many things.

In his early life he was an inspector of schools. This is a position that requires someone to have capacity to accomplish tasks using the necessary strength. Such capability can not be found in a person who is aged. This has been clearly reflected in the poem when he says “Is it to feel our strength”. This expresses the fact that the strength that one has during his years of work tends to decline as a result of the aging process.

Significance of the poem

The author has achieved his objective of sending the message right concerning how people undergo the process of edging. He has mentioned specific changes that occur in an individual during old age. For instance decline in physical strength in the limbs, visual abilities characterize a person who is old enough. During this time there is actual reflection of the past. This is because most people have very lively pasts that are full of many activities that are worth remembering. During old age this past comes into the mind and the old people regret where they did not achieve as they do not have another chance to accomplish the things.The author takes a very simplistic approach in his language and style. He does not use very complicated words to bring out the main theme of the poem which is the process of growing old in life.

He uses questioning style in his art. This is demonstrated when he attracts the attention of the writer with the first sentence asking “What is it to grow old?”. This manages to keep the audience focused especially in how the question is answered throughout the poem. This style manages to help the author to stick to his theme and avoids going away from the main message of the poem.

Through his style the author has managed to strike a distinction between what it means to grow old and what it does not imply. This has been achieved through the use of questions in the poem.

The writer has also employed parables in this piece of work. When he says “In the hot prison of the present”. This can be interpreted to mean that the present life of someone who is growing old limits or burrs the person from certain activities due to the age factor. When the writer says “It is last stage of all”, this is symbolic of the final stage in life that all people are supposed to go through before dying if all conditions were kept constant.

Therefore through his language and style the author has highlighted the main things that occur in life as people grow old and why there is a need to understand the old people.


What are the major characteristics of the process of growing old?


Stanley Kunitz (1936), Matthew Arnold: A Biography, Web.

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IvyPanda. ""Growing Old" by Matthew Arnold." December 7, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/growing-old-by-matthew-arnold/.


IvyPanda. 2021. ""Growing Old" by Matthew Arnold." December 7, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/growing-old-by-matthew-arnold/.


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