Themes in Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard
Death, the overarching theme in Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard, is the inevitable fate of humanity regardless of wealth, power, or status. Gray suggests that while death is an equalizer (since all human activity leads to the grave), social class determines who is remembered—the rich are usually commemorated while the poor are forgotten. However, everyone dies in isolation, so Gray questions whether the poor really do lead insignificant lives that aren’t worth remembering. Only nature, as opposed to humankind’s artificial social structures, seems to offer renewal, as decay and death give way to new life.