The Ballad of Reading Gaol Essay Questions

Essay Questions

  1. 1

    What is the significance of the phrase "blood and wine?"

    The phrase "blood and wine" is a lot more significant than it seems at the first glance. In this phrase, the essence of the poem is nurtured. The blood part seems a rather overt reference to the blood of his lover, but the "wine" is just as significant.

    The use of "wine" with blood suggests that the inmate might have been intoxicated when he murdered his lover. This is important because the reader gets to know that the inmate had not been in his senses when he committed the crime and one way of looking at it is that he is innocent due to his mental state when he committed the crime. Perhaps he was out of control and killed "the thing he loved”.

  2. 2

    What is the significance of the reiteration of the idea that everyone kills the thing he loves?

    The reiteration of this idea reveals an attempt on the speaker's part to justify the crime of the inmate. Throughout the poem, it can be seen that the speaker has sympathy for the inmate but never is it made more obvious than in this line.

    Perhaps, the speaker wishes to humanize the act of the inmate. In the second stanza, the poet extends this idea and talks about the hardships faced by the man. It is also made clear that the inmate regretted having committed that crime.

  3. 3

    How does the poet explore the different ways in which men kill the things they most love?

    Very soon in the poem, it is established that the inmate had committed a crime of passion and hence, can be exonerated, or at least forgiven for having killed his lover. The speaker soon departs from this narrative and starts introspecting the very nature of crime as well as the different ways in which crimes of passion are committed.

    He says that,

    The kindest use a knife, because

    The dead so soon grow so cold.

    This is a direct attempt at justifying the act because the speaker feels that crimes of passion are committed for a reason. One of those reasons can be that the dead have already become cold. Here he also attempts to understand the nuances of human nature.

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