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The Deserted Village | Study Guide

Oliver Goldsmith

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The Deserted Village | Characters

Character Description
Speaker The speaker is a middle-aged man who returns to his childhood village. He reminisces about the happy years of his childhood before blaming wealthy landowners and society's greed for destroying the happy village of his memory. Read More
Preacher The speaker reminisces fondly about the village preacher, who was paid a modest salary and cared for everyone in the village equally. The preacher is likely based on Reverend Henry Goldsmith (d. 1768), the poet's brother.
Rich man On a figurative level the rich man Goldsmith criticizes throughout the poem, whom he also calls "the tyrant," is a symbol for any man who values moneymaking over the lives of his neighbor. On a literal level the rich man is thought to reference General Robert Napper, the wealthy man who bought tracts of land around Lissoy, forcing Goldsmith's neighbors off their land.
Schoolmaster The schoolmaster is a man the speaker thinks of fondly when returning to the village of his childhood. Described as stern but kind and intelligent, he is thought to be based on Thomas (Paddy) Byrne, Goldsmith's childhood teacher.
Widow The widow is an old woman, a "wretched matron" who suffers terribly after the Enclosure Acts. She is thought to be based on Catherine Giraghty, an elderly woman Goldsmith knew from his childhood in Lissoy.
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