The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts & Sciences Department of English

Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology:

What are some connotations/associations of the title, “Spoon River Anthology”?

What are some repeated ironies throughout the work?

What advantage is gained by the fact that all the speakers have died?

“The Hill”:

What is added by the opening poem, “The Hill”?

What might have seemed new or unusual about its form and content in 1915?

What literary devices take the place of rhyme and even stanza lengths?

What point seems to be made by the description of the different fates of Spoon River residents?

"Daisy Fraser":

What do we learn about Spoon River from Daisy Fraser’s account? On what basis does the town make moral judgments?

What do we learn about the town’s recent scandals?

What are features of the poem’s style? Its basic ironies?

"Cassius Hueffer":

What do we learn about the inner life of Cassius Hueffer? What can you infer from his name? From his tone and regrets?

What seems to anger him most?

"Amanda Barker": 

With what does she charge her husband?  Why do the villagers not interpret her death in the way that she does?

What modern expedient recently much in the news might have mitigated her problem?

Does the poem by implication validate her claim?  What ironies underlie the poem?

"Fiddler Jones":

How is Fiddler Jones’s love of music manifested?

What was his occupation? Did he prosper economically? What does he remember most from his life?

Does the poem’s tone seem to approve his choices?

"Petit the Poet":

What do you make of the poet’s name?

What poetic values has Petit held? Does the narrator believe his ideals have been mistaken?
What should have been his inspiration?  

Would Masters have agreed with his final poetic ideals?

"Elsa Wertman":

What event altered Elsa Wertman’s youth? What do we learn about Hamilton Greene and his wife from her story?

Did this story have a satisfactory ending for her? For her child?  

What ironies underlie this tale of seduction, bribery, deception and silence?

"Hamilton Greene":

What seems to be Hamilton Greene’s view of himself and his career? Of his parents and birth?

How are his declamations undercut by the reader’s knowledge of Elsa Wertman’s story?

"Editor Whedon":

What effect has Editor Whedon had on his society? What have been some of his moral lapses? Does he feel regret?

In general, what view does Masters present of journalists?

What is shown by Editor Whedon’s regrets about his burial spot? In the writer’s view, is his fate deserved?

"Anne Rutledge":

Why do you think this was the cycle’s most remembered poem?

What emotions does it evoke? What are some of its features of language?

"Lucinda Matlock":

What events have determined Lucinda Matlock’s life?

What were her avocations? What did she enjoy doing in her free time?

What does she think of her life, and of the modern world?

What are implications of her final affirmation, “It takes life to love Life”?

"Marx the Sign Painter":

What are some ironic implications of Marx’s name? What view of American civilization does he present?

What does he admire? Do you think the author agrees?

What are some implications of the final lines, “I’d like to see the signs”?

"Rhoda Pitkin":

Can you see any ironies in Rhoda’s name?

What views about the transmission of culture does she hold?

What have been the goals of the library committee?

What does the poem imply about the choices Rhoda and Ezra have made? Will it produce “true[r] Americans”?

"Unknown Soldiers":

What message do the unidentified soldiers give to their world? Is it important that they are “unknown”?

In what war do you think they have fought?

Why have the people of Spoon River supported the war? What have the soldiers learned through their experience?

In general, which types of characters seem most gently treated in the cycle? What do we learn from uncovering the graves?


  Copyright © 2010 Florence S Boos, The University of Iowa. All rights reserved.
  Page updated: March 19, 2012 18:22