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Explore How Themes Develop in 'The Prelude'

In this worksheet, students will evaluate how key themes develop in 'The Prelude'. Students will be able to look at how consistent key themes are in the poem/how they change and why.

Worksheet Overview

QUESTION 1 of 10

Want to revise how key themes develop in 'Extract from 'The Prelude''?

 

 

Thought bubble

 

 

This activity will help you understand how Wordsworth's language choice and tone develop these key themes in the poem. In other words, what is the effect of these key themes on the reader? What exactly is Wordsworth trying to show about these key themes? First, let's identify the main themes in the poem.

 

 

Nature 

Solitude

Memory

Imagination

Fear

Sexuality

Power - (This is more of an overall motif in the poem, which links all of the other themes)

 

This activity is designed so that you, not only identify these key themes and ideas in the poem according to the language Wordsworth uses but also explore how these themes develop in the poem. So how does Wordsworth develop one of these themes in his poem?

 

 

 

 

Here's an example of an evaluation on the theme of fear

 

Wordsworth uses techniques such as personification and metaphors in order to create the theme of fear, which becomes more apparent in the middle and end of the poem. Nature is personified, making it seem intimidating and daunting, especially during the climax of the memory (when the speaker sees the "huge peak"). The speaker's fear is apparent, for example, when the "trembling oars" took him back to the willow tree. Wordsworth uses this theme of fear to show the weakness of man and add to the power of nature. 

 

 

If you want to make this activity more of a revision exercise then jot these themes down. If you want to use this activity to test yourself, then go ahead and try to memorise these key themes/motifs. 

 

 

It's up to you how you want to use this activity!

 

 

Remember, it's not a race. So take your time with each step! 

 

How does Wordsworth present the idea of nature in the quote: 

 

"As if with voluntary power instinct, upreared its head"

 

Pick one correct answer from the options below.

 

The quote presents nature as powerful, but not as powerful as Wordsworth

The quote presents nature as intimidating and monstrous, wielding power over Wordsworth

The quote presents nature as peaceful

Looking at memory,

 

 

pick two quotes which show this theme.

"For many days, my brain, worked with a dim and undetermined sense"

"Were a trouble to my dreams"

"...lustily, I dipped my oars"

"I struck and struck again"

In the table below, tick the box next to the quote which you think shows either solitude or fear.

 

 

Think about what part of the poem these quotes are from.

Looking at the theme/motif of imagination.

 

Which quotes best show the theme of imagination? There are two right answers.

"Like living men, moved slowly through the mind"

"I dipped my oars into the silent lake"

"But huge and mighty forms that do no live"

"I struck and struck again"

Looking at the theme/motif of sexuality.

 

 

How does Wordsworth present this theme?

 

Write the number of the most detailed answer. Only one is correct.

 

1. Wordsworth presents this theme at the end of the poem when Wordsworth marries his wife.

2. Wordsworth is having sex with a woman, so this is why the theme of sex is introduced.

3. The sexual language/imagery used in the poem could <b>metaphorically</b> reflect the sexual awakening and maturation (growth) of the speaker.

4. The sexual language/imagery used in the poem could <b>metaphorically</b> reflect the weakness of the speaker.

Let's have a look at this quote:

 

"...with purpose of its own"

 

Tick the one theme this quote shows.

 

Power of nature

Memory

Peace

Sexuality

Solitude

Which quote best shows the theme/motif of memory?

 

There is one right answer.

"I dipped my oars into the silent lake"

"In grave, and serious mood"

"Were a trouble to my dreams"

"With trembling oars I turned"

Let's link how fear and imagination are connected/separated.

 

In the table below, tick the box for the theme you think the quote best shows. If the quote shows both themes, then tick under both themes.

 

Hint: when thinking about the theme of fear, look at ideas/language devices which could be used to represent fear for example within a semantic field of fear.

 FearImagination
"No familiar shapes remained no pleasant images of trees"
"Huge and mighty forms...moved slowly through the mind"
"With trembling oars I turned"
"My brain worked with a dim and undetermined sense..."

Looking at the theme/motif of the power of nature

 

 

Pick the one answer that you think best shows how Wordsworth reflects this theme in his poem.

 

Wordsworth reflects nature's power as the opposite of the speaker's weakness

Wordsworth presents the power of nature in a very subtle way- it makes the reader think hard about who really has power, the speaker or nature

Wordsworth presents the power of nature in a very obvious way- the speaker is overwhelmed and transformed by nature's power over his mind

Last question! An easier one, for all your hard work.

 

 

What one theme/motif out of the three listed is the most obvious in the poem?

 

Solitude

Sexuality

Power of nature

  • Question 1

How does Wordsworth present the idea of nature in the quote: 

 

"As if with voluntary power instinct, upreared its head"

 

Pick one correct answer from the options below.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
The quote presents nature as intimidating and monstrous, wielding power over Wordsworth
EDDIE SAYS
Wordsworth has personified the mountain, presenting nature as something powerful and monstrous. Nature seems to be almost too overwhelming for the speaker to fully comprehend, so much so that this one sublime incident has remained indented into his memory after all this time. Think about how the portrayal of nature changes throughout the poem, from the beginning to the end. Does the description of it change as the poem goes on? How is nature portrayed at the beginning of the poem, in comparison to the end of the poem?
  • Question 2

Looking at memory,

 

 

pick two quotes which show this theme.

CORRECT ANSWER
"For many days, my brain, worked with a dim and undetermined sense"
"Were a trouble to my dreams"
EDDIE SAYS
The first two quotes explore Wordsworth's memory, as he recounts the transformative moment. Wordsworth recalls the event so vividly, to the point that the memory affects his dreams. Look at the way memory is reflected in the whole poem- Wordsworth is recounting his childhood. Many of the verbs used in the poem are past tense: "led", "dipped", "went" alongside present continuous verbs "dipping", "trembling". This gives the sense of ongoingness as if Wordsworth is reliving a memory from the past. This memory must have a continuous effect on Wordsworth. Power is a recurring motif in the poem, and everything can be related to it in some way- the power of nature, the power of memory. As well as this, many themes link together, to emphasise one another. For example, the theme of nature (and the power it welds) can be tied to memory.
  • Question 3

In the table below, tick the box next to the quote which you think shows either solitude or fear.

 

 

Think about what part of the poem these quotes are from.

CORRECT ANSWER
EDDIE SAYS
The themes of fear and solitude link together, nicely. Near the middle of the poem, the theme of fear becomes more apparent (due to the climactic event that occurs- the point of transformation where Wordsworth sees the mountain and likens it to a monster). Although the theme of solitude runs through the entire poem (the speaker is always alone), it becomes even more apparent near the end of the poem- this is when the speaker is left alone with his thoughts. Solitude also links with Wordsworth's transformation. At the beginning of the poem, Wordsworth states that he is "led by her" who we assume is nature, personified, although, he could easily be referring to some other mystical entity or muse who is, perhaps, leading him to his realisation and transformative moment. He's not alone. However, in the end, his solitude is apparent- "blank desertion" and "there hung a darkness, call it solitude". Many people have written about 'The Prelude' arguing Wordsworth was attempting to write a grand poem, just like Milton did in his huge epic 'Paradise Lost'. At the beginning of 'Paradise Lost' Milton refers to the muse Urania, who visited him at night and told him to write the epic poem. Perhaps Wordsworth is also referring to his own muse (the "her" in question), who leads him to this transformative moment.
  • Question 4

Looking at the theme/motif of imagination.

 

Which quotes best show the theme of imagination? There are two right answers.

CORRECT ANSWER
"Like living men, moved slowly through the mind"
"But huge and mighty forms that do no live"
EDDIE SAYS
In picking out the presentation of certain themes, we have to make sure we can infer- that is, we need to read between the lines. Look at the language used and the tone established. The theme of imagination is apparent throughout the poem (we can tell due to the personification of nature), however, it becomes much more dominant near the end of the poem. The speaker starts imagining things that didn't happen, such as "living men", who "moved slowly through the mind". Does this show how powerful nature really is? The speaker is unable to think about anything else except the frightening influence of nature.
  • Question 5

Looking at the theme/motif of sexuality.

 

 

How does Wordsworth present this theme?

 

Write the number of the most detailed answer. Only one is correct.

 

1. Wordsworth presents this theme at the end of the poem when Wordsworth marries his wife.

2. Wordsworth is having sex with a woman, so this is why the theme of sex is introduced.

3. The sexual language/imagery used in the poem could <b>metaphorically</b> reflect the sexual awakening and maturation (growth) of the speaker.

4. The sexual language/imagery used in the poem could <b>metaphorically</b> reflect the weakness of the speaker.

CORRECT ANSWER
3
EDDIE SAYS
The theme of sexuality is quite abstract in the poem; meaning Wordsworth doesn't explicitly have sex, but the language of sex is implied. Look closely at the language used to describe the speaker's actions ("lustily" "struck and struck" "I dipped my oars" "troubled pleasure" "unloosened her chain" "huge peak" "I rose upon the stroke"...I could go on!). This really reflects Wordsworth's transformation. It goes hand in hand with the idea of puberty, maturation (becoming mature), and manhood. It seems that nature is the catalyst (point of change) for Wordsworth, plummeting him into maturity, almost forcing him to awaken and see the world for what it is. It also forces him to realise that he must take on the role of a Romantic poet- where before, he was an unassuming boy, after the sexual awakening that he undergoes, Wordsworth realises the power of nature and the influence it has over mankind (also known as the sublime experience). Many have also stated that Wordsworth seems to use the language of sexual awakening to metaphorically illustrate his close relationship with nature.
  • Question 6

Let's have a look at this quote:

 

"...with purpose of its own"

 

Tick the one theme this quote shows.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Power of nature
EDDIE SAYS
The theme present is the power of nature- the mountain has its own purpose!
  • Question 7

Which quote best shows the theme/motif of memory?

 

There is one right answer.

CORRECT ANSWER
"Were a trouble to my dreams"
EDDIE SAYS
The theme of memory is a funny one- the whole poem should link to it, after all, the speaker is recalling a past event. But, it's only near the end of the poem where Wordsworth is displaying the true power of his memory- he literally can't forget about what he saw, to the point where it haunts his dreams. His memory is triggered, which in a sense, is a source of inspiration and influence for Wordsworth.
  • Question 8

Let's link how fear and imagination are connected/separated.

 

In the table below, tick the box for the theme you think the quote best shows. If the quote shows both themes, then tick under both themes.

 

Hint: when thinking about the theme of fear, look at ideas/language devices which could be used to represent fear for example within a semantic field of fear.

CORRECT ANSWER
 FearImagination
"No familiar shapes remained no pleasant images of trees"
"Huge and mighty forms...moved slowly through the mind"
"With trembling oars I turned"
"My brain worked with a dim and undetermined sense..."
EDDIE SAYS
The themes of fear and imagination link nicely in the poem. Hopefully, this table has challenged you a bit whilst helping you to form connections/separations between the two themes.
  • Question 9

Looking at the theme/motif of the power of nature

 

 

Pick the one answer that you think best shows how Wordsworth reflects this theme in his poem.

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Wordsworth presents the power of nature in a very obvious way- the speaker is overwhelmed and transformed by nature's power over his mind
EDDIE SAYS
Through the use of personification, metaphors and similes, Wordsworth presents nature as a powerful theme. Not only is it described as grandiose ("huge peak"), it also has been given the ability to perform actions and move.
  • Question 10

Last question! An easier one, for all your hard work.

 

 

What one theme/motif out of the three listed is the most obvious in the poem?

 

CORRECT ANSWER
Power of nature
EDDIE SAYS
The theme of the power of nature is the most dominant in the poem- there is no doubt that Wordsworth is trying to portray how powerful nature is, using the technique of personification which brings nature to life!
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