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Introduction & Overview of The Missing

This Study Guide consists of approximately 24 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of The Missing.
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The Missing Summary & Study Guide Description

The Missing 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 For Further Study on The Missing by Thom Gunn.

Completed in 1997, Thom Gunn's "The Missing" takes its place among the most eloquent and poignant testaments to have arisen from the literature of AIDS. Part elegy, part rueful meditation, the poem is told from the perspective of the survivor, one who has been left behind in the wake of a string of senseless deaths. Here, the speaker faces an uncertain and sorely compromised future stripped of the loving support of the friends on whom he has come to rely so heavily. And yet, more than a confrontation of the mystery and irrationality of death, the poem explores the extent to which society influences and shapes the individual. It celebrates the meaningful connections and lasting ties that punctuate a life and often outlive it in the realm of memory.

"The Missing" first appeared in Gunn's 1992 collection, The Man with Night Sweats. As its title declares, the AIDS crisis is one of its central preoccupations. Night sweats are one of the symptoms of AIDS and often come as a harrowing harbinger of a yet undiagnosed disease that has already taken up residence in the body. Clearly, this grim and visceral detail indicates a book that is honest in its unsentimental portraits of lives cut short and of people languishing in their prime.

In addition, the poem displays another hallmark of Gunn's poetry: a complex and seamlessly rendered formal structure. Written in iambic pentameter and adopting an abab rhyme scheme, "The Missing" is a unique example of a traditional, formal poem taking a contemporary theme as its subject. "Rhythmic form and subject-matter are locked in a permanent embrace," Gunn writes in an essay expressing his theories of poetics, and the embrace is an image that recurs throughout Gunn's work and figures centrally in "The Missing." It is an image of both friendship and desire, two sources of empowerment and identity. But it also an image with the dark shadow of death looming over it, suggesting the infection, the tragedy to which desire can lead.

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This section contains 333 words
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Poetry for Students
The Missing from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.