Only One Killed Poem Analysis

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Usually, the Civil War is viewed as the death of Romanticism in American literature. This may sound like an exaggeration, but it is in fact true. By the end of the American Civil War Romantic American literature had all but vanished and Realism had taken its place. Though this is true, there was a time during the last few years of the Civil War where both Romanticism and Realism resided in American literature. By analyzing the 1864 Confederate poems “Reading the List” and “Only One Killed” along with the personal letter of Confederate soldier Phillip H. Powers, readers become aware of how both Romanticism and Realism were present in Confederate literature during that time of the war, thereby showing that even though the prospect for success…show more content…
In “Reading the List”, a woman, identified as Widow Gray, whose son is killed in battle is not portrayed in a manner that would be typical for a grieving mother, instead the author depicts Widow Gray as being oddly accepting of her son’s death. This can be seen in the lines: “It has cost me the life of my only son;/ But the battle is fought, and the victory won,/ The will of the Lord, let it be done!” (Anonymous 154). With these lines the author displays literary qualities that are typical to Romanticism such as, the glorification of the dead, the calling on an unseen fantastical force, and the unrealistic portrayal of how a grieving mother would behave, with the portrayal of a grieving mother being the most prevalent of the three in the poem. In “Reading the List”, the author displays Widow Gray as accepting her son’s death very shortly after she discovers that he is dead. Additionally, the author shows Widow Gray justifying her son’s death almost as if it were a necessary sacrifice just because the battle he was fighting in won in the end. Neither of these qualities is particularly realistic for a grieving mother; however in the terms of Romanticism, they are completely romantic in nature, which thereby means that the character Widow Gray, as well as the poem “Reading the List” itself, are pieces of
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