A critical commentary on Astronauts
Astronauts by Robert Hayden allows the reader an insight into the emotions and feelings of spectators watching a moon landing. The central theme of the poem focuses on the landscape and the description of it whilst also showing an underlying theme of danger. This can be seen through a variety of techniques and word choices by the poet. The poem aims to enable the reader to empathise with the astronauts and question the reasoning behind sending them to space.
Firstly, the central theme is one of mystery and wonder at the area around the astronauts. Due to the fact that the astronauts are “floating the lifeless dust of Taurus Littrow”, we can deduce that this is a particularly barren landscape of which the reader would seem disinterested in, but instead, “they exclaim; oh boy, this is it.”. The use of a full stop as opposed to an exclamation mark has the effect of creating a pause which highlights the wonder and nervousness of the moment. To match this, the first stanza is deliberately vague in its description so that when it ends with a caesura, it is a blank unknown the reader must dive into. Only then will the reader discover what a moon landing is like, they will learn that the astronauts “sing, exulting”. To add to the silent lifeless landscape, the surface is described as an “Absolute Otherwhere”. The capitalisation of these two words emphasise the idea of a blank, plain world that lays before the astronauts and highlights the life the humans bring to what appears to be a lifeless planet.
To add to the sense of mystery further, the poem ends with a tricolon of rhetorical questions “Why are we troubled? What do we ask of these men? What do we ask of ourselves?”. This leaves the reader reflecting on th...