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Introduction & Overview of The Afterlife

Billy Collins
This Study Guide consists of approximately 20 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Afterlife.
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The Afterlife Summary & Study Guide Description

The Afterlife Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Further Reading on The Afterlife by Billy Collins.

"The Afterlife" was first published in Poetry magazine and is included in Billy Collins's 1991 collection Questions about Angels, where it appears midway through the second section just before "The Dead." It also appears in Sailing Alone around the Room: New and Selected Poems (2001) and is on Collins's compact disc recording, The Best Cigarette (1997). The poem describes the speaker's fantasies of what would happen if everyone, when they died, experienced the afterlife they believed in when they were alive. Like many of Collins's poems, "The Afterlife" is rife with humor and a wry sense of the unusual. Life after death is a serious subject and one widely addressed in poetry, perhaps most famously in Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy. Here, Collins deflates the gravity of the subject by poking fun at the ways in which people have imagined the afterlife. In nine free-verse stanzas, the speaker describes what comes after death for various types of Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, and the agnostic. Collins draws on religious stereotypes and figures from popular culture for his imagery, creating a kind of "cartoonish" feel in the poem. This style fits the context, however, as the descriptions have the feel of a daydream and are interspersed with the images of a person preparing for bed and waking in the morning.

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This section contains 214 words
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Poetry for Students
The Afterlife from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.