The poem, "Not Waving but Drowning" written by Stevie Smith strongly exemplifies the deceptive attitudes of people when hiding their true melancholy. Smith uses a drowning situation to familiarize the reaction of onlookers and society. In the poem, the victim gives false interpretation to those around him as they think he "loves larking"(line 5) in the sea. He does this to hide his true feelings, similar to how most people attempt to hide their personal misfortunes. Eventually, the victim realizes he needs external help, by then however, the on-lookers ignore him. The onlookers do not realize that the victim is not waving but in actuality drowning because of the extent of his deceptive past. By doing this, Smith tries to symbolize the image people have when one suppresses their pain for far too long. The theme and tone expressed in this poem are of someone appearing in control but in reality floundering, which all has to do with suicide and depression.
The literary devices used by the author to convey the meaning and tone are language and the setting. Language expresses the authors tone toward the symbolism in this poem. He uses this technique to enhance the meaning of his death. The man in this poem did not want help. He was "not waving but drowning"(line 12) appearing that he was in control by showing he was waving but in reality he was drowning and wanted to commit suicide but at the same time not wanting to reveal his true feeling to the world of this true depression. Now that he had gone too far however, he has changed his mind. He does not want to drown, he wants help and "lay's moaning"(line 2) he wants to be heard, but it is too late. He cannot be heard.