Stevie Smith’s “Not Waving but Drowning” like most of his poems in dark and the theme is the frequently used death. The poem deals both figuratively and literally with a man, lost in the sea. The poem portrays an amazing contradiction in the content and the tone between the flippancy of the narration and seriousness of a man’s situation.
Known for her combination of “caprice and doom” in her writing, Stevie Smith in one of her most famous works “Not Waving but Drowning “has omitted significant punctuations and quotation marks to make the readers understand the depth of the poem.
The entire theme of Stevie’s poem revolves around a dead man’s speech that was lost in his entire life and cried all along for help instead of waving to the people who came into his life and even passed out of it. The poem is a mixture of a number of conflicting emotions. The death of the dead man is stated as a matter of fact which is free from all the emotions. The misery of the dead man is explained in the two lines “Nobody heard him, the dead man, But still he lay moaning.”The dead man is screaming his enormous pain through the pen of the poetess.
The dead man, when alive was neglected, even though in quiet ways, he was showing his feeling. Even though his family and friends were aware of his pain, still they could not help him or may be dis not want to help him. The dead man was in pain even when he was alive and even now when he is dead. Because he failed to express his feelings while he was alive, today it is impossible for him to get rid of this pain.
The line” Poor chap, he always loved larking” is the point of view of his family who are convincing themselves that the dead man’s pain is and completely was the result of his own fault. It was impossible for the family to help him. “And now he is dead”, These lines explain the pain of his family who feel sorry that a person whom they loved dearly was unable to express his feelings properly as a result of which he cannot find peace and solace even after his death.
Some people think that death is a solution to all the problems but the truth is exactly the opposite. How can you solve your problems once you are dead if you were not capable of solving them while you were alive and had the resources to solve them? “Oh no no it was too cold always” explains the fact that his peers and siblings were aware of the fact that the dead man was depressed when he was alive; they were as a matter of fact used to his depression.
he poetess in this short poem has explained the true meaning and necessity of expressing oneself in their lives to their loved ones because lack of expression results in mourning even after death.