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Richard Bone Analysis

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  • Pages: 3
  • Word count: 633
  • Category: Poems

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Richard Bone is sort of the key to the whole collection of “Spoon River Anthology” because it details the epitaphs that he (being Edgar Masters) was able to craft knowing the true nature of the townspeople he commemorates. It was Masters’ job to write the epitaphs as it was Richard Bone’s job to write what they wanted on the epitaphs, which are probably not a real reflection of the lives they lead – just the image of themselves that someone else wanted them to have in that mundane way of “beloved mother,” etc…

Masters does a wonderful job seeing the humanity in each person even when they possessed the less than admirable qualities that a typical epitaph omits. In this poem, Bone is somewhat dismayed at playing a part in perpetuating the myth of the townspeople because he was “influenced to hide” their real stories by the necessity of earning money.

He’s talking about making a tombstone for two people he doesn’t know based on the opinion of others. It’s all good and well to be told that a person was wonderful and a good christian in their life, but how does he know? How does he know he’s not chiseling “false chronicles” into permanence. He realizes that perhaps it’s not his place to question the past lives of another, but to simply acknowledge the life and move on.

The poem “Richard Bone” by Edgar Lee Masters and the short story “Cats” by Anna Quindlen share a theme of how memory is imperfect. Both use a similar plot of having to deal with something that the protagonists don’t enjoy yet are helplessly doing what they are told to do. Both Masters and Quindlen teach readers that though memories are neither perfect nor can be touched or seen, it is possible to replace them or fill in the gaps ourselves. Both texts explore a theme of how loneliness is at the core of memories through the examples of Richard Bone, the woman next door, and the essence of people’s personal lives.

In Masters’ poem, the main character Richard Bone works as an epitaph. As a result of working alone, nobody exactly knows him. Everyone looks gratefully upon him for what he does in his work: “He was a consistent Christian” (670). In response, Richard simply thinks: “I chiseled for them whatever they wished” (670). As he is ordered to create positive epitaphs for those grieving their deceased loved ones, Bone feels guilt from writing what he feels are “false chronicles”. Bone is depressed and unsatisfied with what he is doing – he is confused.

Masters points out the significance of how memories of a person are often recorded with false information, preventing everyone from knowing the truth of who a person truly was at his or her core. Knowing this, Bone is upset because no one knows the real Bone, thus when he dies, he will be remembered by a false inscription. This is similar to the woman next door in Quindlen’s story.

The woman’s only interests are the cats and narrator’s son, Bop Bop. Quindlen writes of the woman next door’s relationship with her son as: “Some summer nights she and my little boy would sit together companionably on the front stoop, watching cars go by” (690). But when the woman next door passes away, the narrator wonders and worries how long he will remember her, and what she will mean to him, “When he looks at the picture and

The poem Richard Bone is written by Edgar Lee Masters. The poem is a key to the collection of Spoon River Anthology. It details the epitaphs that Masters was able to craft knowing the true nature of the townspeople he commemorates.

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