“Barbara Frietchie” by John Greenleaf Whittier
famished – starving, hungry fourscore year and ten – 90 years old
Questions and Answers
1. The speaker makes references to the “Lee” (Robert E.), a figure from outside the poem whom the speaker assumes readers will recognize. What is the literary term for this kind of reference?
Such a reference is called an allusion.
2. The poem is written in rhyming pairs. What is the term for this type of rhyme scheme?
The poem is written in rhymed couplets.
3. What flag does Barbara Frietchie hang in her attic window, that of the Union or the Confederacy?
She hangs a Union flag, described as having “silver stars” and “crimson bars.”
4. According to the speaker, how old is Barbara Frietchie?
On line eighteen, the speaker reveals that Barbara Frietchie is “fourscore years and ten,” or ninety years old.
5. How does his encounter with Barbara Frietchie change Stonewall Jackson?
Barbara Frietchie’s impassioned plea to allow her flag to fly seemed to soften the general. It causes him to feel a “shade of sadness,” and makes him “blush with shame.” When her words and actions stir in him his “nobler nature,” he orders his troops to leave her and her flag alone.
6. In your own words, explain the last couplet of this poem. What does this play on words really mean?
The speaker plays with the word “stars” in this couplet. The speaker asks that the “stars above,” perhaps meaning Heaven, always look down with admiration and praise on the “stars below in Fredericktown,” referring to the stars on the flag allowed to fly, thanks to the efforts of Barbara Frietchie.