Epitaphs In Spoon River

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In Spoon River Anthology, Masters uses colloquial diction and free verse to portray the lives of the lay-people that once lived in a fictional town near the Spoon River. The poems are significant because they are in the form of epitaphs that uncover truths often hid from view in small town life. The epitaphs are individually significant in that they contain irony that accompanies the colloquial, small town diction. In the epitaph of “Elsa Wertman,” Masters tells of a poor German girl who had an illegitimate child with a well-to-do gentleman of the small community. Ironically, her son is adopted by the wife of Thomas Greene and the boy is raised as the son of Thomas and Frances Greene, not Elsa Wertman. Ironically, the boy believes he came from…show more content…
However, he has no idea that he was born a secret child of a German peasant girl that once worked for his father. The irony of Elsa’s life was that she gave birth to a boy who would one day become a heralded leader; the irony of her son’s life is that he believes in his noble blood yet truly comes from an adulterous affair with a peasant. In the epitaph of Lucinda Matlock, the woman describes her small town experiences at the “dances in Chandlerville” and playing “snap-out in Winchester” (Masters, 879). The irony in her life is that she had twelve children, “eight of whom we lost Ere I had reached the age of sixty” (Masters, 879) and that she “had lived enough, that is all” yet, she “passed to a sweet repose” (Masters, 879). Most individuals that live such a long and hard life would drift into bitterness before death, but Lucinda instead remains in sweet contentment. However, she scorns the younger generation that, despite hardly experiencing similar hardships, proclaims “sorrow and weariness, Anger, discontent and drooping hopes” (Masters,
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