‘The Stick-Together Families’ by Edgar Guest is a four stanza poem that is separated into sets of six lines, or sextets. The lines are further divided into rhyming pairs, or couplets. The stanzas follow a constant pattern of aabbcc, all the way through the text. A determinedly optimistic mood lasts throughout this piece with the poet taking an equally idealist tone to the subject matter.
In both content and word choice, ‘The Stick-Together Families’ contains many instances of repetition. The poem’s main theme comes together within the first few lines and the rest of the stanzas emphasize that main point. He uses the coined adjective “stick-together” to describe how ideal families treat one another. It is clear that he, or at least the speaker for whom he is writing, has an idealized image of family life. He has simplified complex familial relations down to a black or white alternative. Either one sticks by their relatives or does not.
Summary of The Stick-Together Families
The poem begins by stating that the most “gladsome” families are those that stick together. They do not let circumstances separate them for any reason. If a family stays true to this way of being then they will, rich or poor, be joyful.
In the rest of the stanzas, the speaker outlines how much better off “stick-together” families are than those who do not try to remain by one another’s side. Separate brothers and sisters will only find barren fields and joyless homes without one another.
The poem concludes with the speaker appealing to a “brother” to stop wandering and return home. It is only among his family members that he will find true happiness.
You can read the full poem here.
Analysis of The Stick-Together Families
The stick-together families are happier by far
Than the brothers and the sisters who take separate highways are.
And the finest of conventions ever held beneath the sun
Are the little family gatherings when the busy day is done.
In the first stanza of this piece, the speaker begins by making a sweeping statement about the happiness of families. Without any further information, a reader is able to make the assumption that Guest, or at least his speaker, cares about how families interact and whether or not they remain together.
He states that the families that “stick-together” are the happiest. Not only is sticking together something they do, but the phrase is also used as an adjective to describe the family unit. Just as a family might be happy or unhappy, it can be “stick-together.” Guest’s reasoning is fairly straight forward. He is assuming that those such as, “brothers and…sisters” are always going to be more at peace when they stay together rather they taking “separate highways.” This phrase is concerned with both physical and mental/emotional distance.
In the next rhyming couplet he describes the camaraderie that can be found around a “fireside.” He is depicting an intimate moment with a family that cares enough to spend time together without distraction. They are “wholesome” and happy, or “gladsome.” Their bond to one another is unbreakable, except if death were to strike.
In the last two lines, the speaker describes another moment of coming together. The family in question this time is one that works hard during the day and then meets up when the “busy day is done.”
There are rich folk, there are poor folk, who imagine they are wise,
For the children that are wisest are the stick-together kind.
In the second stanza, the speaker once again uses the phrase “stick-together.” This time it is in reference to the “children that are wisest.” They do not come from only rich or poor families. Instead, they are only defined by their attention to one another and desire to “go…searching after pleasure” together rather than separately. Life does not have to divide those with separate interests, it can connect families into new supportive structures.
If one does not pursue this kind of connected life then they will end up with an empty field devoid of joy.
There are some who seem to fancy that for gladness they must roam,
Are the brothers and the sisters who together share their fun.
In the third sextet, the speaker does away with the belief that happiness is only gained through “roami[ing].” These same people are drawn to the idea of wandering and seeking out “strange friend[s]” who are not necessarily good ones. All of this, the speaker says, is in vain. It is wasted time that would be better spent alongside someone who truly cares.
The last two lines reiterate the points of the previous stanzas. A busy day does not need to separate family members, time can always be found to come together, and happiness and fun exist only in a shared experience.
It’s the stick-together family that wins the joys of earth,
Come you back unto the fireside and be comrade with your kin.
As is customary within Guest’s poetry the final stanza or last few lines summarize everything his speaker previously stated. There is often not much new information in these lines or any significant extension on metaphors. The same can be said for these lines.
In the final stanza, the speaker reiterates that the happiest families are those that “stick-together.” They are the ones that can find the most beautiful and peaceful moments on earth and create for themselves, wherever they are, a real home. These homes will play host to the “gladdest” of “play-ground[s]” and all wanderers can find contentment there. The last line asks that the wayward “brother” come back to the fireside and be with his “kin.”