What Is the Theme of the Poem “Fifteen” by William Stafford?

William Stafford’s poem “Fifteen” has strong themes of youth, morality and coming of age. The short poem tells the story of a fifteen-year-old who comes across a seemingly abandoned motorcycle and makes a choice about what to do with it.

“Fifteen” is a poetic retelling an experience the narrator had at age 15. It is thematically focused on youth, maturity, responsibility, honesty, and coming of age. The poem opens with a summer setting on a road, where the narrator comes across “a motorcycle with engine running as it lay on its side.” The boy picks up the motorcycle, which the Young Writer’s Project refers to as “forbidden fruit,” and walks it back to the road, feeling an instant connection with the machine and imagining the possibility of riding it off into adventure. He stands with the motorcycle for a moment, indulging his imagination before remembering that the wrecked motorcycle must have a rider. The boy finds the rider and helps him back to his motorcycle. Before he rides away, the nameless rider calls the narrator “a good man” as the boy “stood there, fifteen.”