The Man With Night Sweats Analysis

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In the 1980s, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome(AIDS) struck the United States and initially impacted the gay community the hardest. A homosexual man himself, Thom Gunn saw, firsthand, the effect AIDS had on the gay community when he lost many friends. An elegy to those taken too soon and an ode to those still fighting, Gunn wrote “The Man with Night Sweats.” In “The Man with Night Sweats,” Gunn utilizes tactile, visual, and kinesthetic imagery to convey the threefold progression of confusion, reflection, and helplessness those face when battling AIDS. In the beginning stanzas, Gunn incorporates tactile imagery of heat and cold as the man wakes to formulate the confusion those with AIDS experience in the beginning of their illness. Waking in the middle of the night, the speaker is disturbed from his passionate dreams. Although he is sweating, he feels cold: “I wake up cold, I who / Prospered through dreams of heat” (1-2). Sweating is typically an indicator for the man that he is thriving, but now, for an unknown reason, he is cold. The coldness he feels demonstrates to him that the sweating is no longer coming from heated dreams, rather they are a response to something else, something he hasn’t experienced before. By including tactile imagery, Gunn displays the early perplexity of a disease. In addition to tactile imagery, …show more content…

Gunn connects tactile imagery with the puzzlement that comes along as an illness first presents itself, visual imagery as patients thinks about how their body is deteriorating, and kinesthetic imagery when the person comes to understand that they no longer have power over their body. While Gunn may have drawn inspiration from his experience with AIDS, the poem is universal in that it can be a testament to the transition from strength to fragility when one is faced with a hardship of any

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