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Reflection Essay - the Span of Life

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Reading Reflection: "The Span of Life"

Although only sixteen words long, this poem jumped off the page and into my head, heart, and soul. As I read "the old dog bark backwards without getting up" (Clugston, 2010, What literature contributes to our lives, para. 11) for the first time, I thought of the literal meaning of the sentence. It's just an old dog on the floor barking back at something it is bothered by. Then it hits me after I read "I can remember when he was a pup" (Clugston, 2010, What literature contributes to our lives, para. 11). This is not just about an old dog on the floor. This situation will eventually happen to every single one of us. I then began to imagine myself as an old woman, looking back on my life and what I had made of it. Am I happy with what I have become? Could I have done it any differently? Did I make all the right choices in my life? At this point I can't change anything, as I am on the way out of the life I have created for myself.

I am now having feelings I can't place words on. So, how does this work of literature cause me to go to such a place in my mind so vividly and powerfully? How do I account for the feelings that I am having? This paper will provide my reflections and insights into the poem "The Span of Life" by Robert Frost by describing why it caught my interest as the reader, and then evaluating the meaning of the poem using the reader-response approach to literary criticism.

This work immediately captured my interest because of the powerful image that Frost creates of an old dog on the floor. I am a dog lover and I have always had them around. I know what an old dog looks like laying on the floor; tired, grey, and frail. Frost has "given us first a sound picture of the dog near the end of his life" (Wood, 2009, para. 4). With this image I am free to determine what that dog means to me as the reader. In addition, after reading the next line I am completely drawn in by the powerful symbolism that is used to represent the actual span of life that we all shall experience (Clugston, 2010). This is where all the emotions kick in. So, what aspects of this poem make me feel the way that I do about it? The following will describe that process.

The reader-response approach to literary criticism focuses on making connections and reflecting on them. In addition to making connections to a work of literature, the feelings that are felt must be accounted for. According to this approach, I must never solely depend on my feelings and opinions; they must be linked to the literary aspects within the work (Clugston, 2010). This approach offers endless interpretive possibilities by the reader and there is no right or wrong way to interpret a literary work (Reader response criticism, 1997). Clugston (2010) suggests that I use "connecting" questions to help develop a critical analysis of the poem.

According to these questions, I should first consider what captured my imagination. As described above, it was simply the powerful imagery and symbolism. Next, I should consider if what I felt was an emotion, a curiosity, or an aspiration.

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