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Easter, 1916 | Narrative Voice

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"Easter, 1916" is written in the first person, presumably from the perspective of Yeats himself. The narrator's views reflect Yeats's own views, particularly his ambivalence toward the rebels' deaths. While the poem captures a moment in history, its primary purpose appears to be Yeats's coming to terms with the terrible losses, including the lives of his friends, and to understand whether the uprising was necessary.

In the poem's opening stanza, the narrator clearly states his distance from the independence movement. The narrative voice reflects the mindset of a majority of Irish, who, like Yeats, initially disapproved of rebel behavior. Once the rebels were executed, however, the Irish people banded together in outrage.

The narrator admires the rebels' steadfast vision. He compares them to a stone, which has a twofold message. They are strong and unwavering, even as the river, which represents life, changes "minute by minute" around them. Yet the comparison also conjures images of hearts turned to stone—something cold and inhuman, which suggests a more ominous message: single-mindedness may also threaten your humanity. Life changes constantly, and the poem questions whether the rebels' inability to change their stone hearts led to their potentially unnecessary deaths.
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