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How does Tennyson bring mental pessimism and Victorian optimism in his use of myths and legends?

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Introduction

How does Tennyson bring mental pessimism and Victorian optimism in his use of myths and legends? Ans.: "And we are here as on a darkling plain Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight, Where ignorant armies clash by night." [Dover Beach: Mathew Arnold] "The year is at the spring And day is at the morn, ... God's in heaven, All is right with world." [Pippa Passes: Robert Browning] These above quoted two quotations are from two renowned poets of Victorian arena show the contrast attitudes to their time. Browning is very optimistic of everything because he does not have any mental torment of his age. On the contrary Mathew Arnold is very critical of his age, which he has found barren and sterile dominated by materialistic views and so spiritually degenerated. But Tennyson is almost a mixture of Browning's and Arnold's feelings. In some of his poems he is very happy about everything in which he is passing his life and in some of his poems he is very melancholic about his surroundings. These joys and sorrows are pre-dominated in him due to some of mental crises and the condition of the Victorian age in which he was. ...read more.

Middle

Thus we see that Tennyson is very optimistic with the growing trade and commerce, the new inventions and over all development of his time. There is another aspect, often neglected, in which Ulysses is a highly Tennysonian character - his mental pessimism: though he talks of action he does nothing. It is too easily assumed that at the end of the poem he embarks on his last voyage. Against this is the enervating and languid movement of the verse as night falls (hardly a likely time to set sail): "The light begins to twinkle from the rocks; The long day wanes; the slow moon climbs; the deep Moans round with many voices ..." It is very difficult for us to believe Ulysses when he says "'Tis not late too late to seek a newer world." Tithonus, written at about the same time of Ulysses, is one of the most beautiful and successful of Tennyson's works. Tithonus, in classical mythology, was a Trojan beloved of the goddess of dawn, Aurora who granted him immortality, but not eternal youth. Tennyson's character speaks in extreme old age, all passion spent, but with a melancholy longing for the release from life, which his immortality denies him. ...read more.

Conclusion

They argues in favor of escapism: "For surely now our households hearths are cold; Ours sons inherit us; our looks are strange." So far the poem has evoked the attraction of this escape from reality and given a little hint of the question whether such an escape is right. In the Choric Song the sailors declare that they will follow instincts like gods ignoring the world's misery and evil. This clearly raises the moral question (the sailors for selfishness) and there seems no doubt that Tennyson is wishing to say that such an attitude is immoral. The division between his instinctual feelings and his moral judgment was one which Tennyson only occasionally overcame. In 'Oenone', the legend of golden apple shows that there are groups of people: one run after power, the other seek knowledge and wisdom, and another who indulge in pleasure of the physical senses. Obviously Tennyson is in favor of the Moral Law. It also shows that the age of Tennyson is full of people like Paris, who may bring disaster any time, which is not desired. So, Tennyson waits foe man of self-reverence, self-knowledge and self-control. Finally we may say that in a superb way Tennyson has interlinked the myths and legends with his own sorrows or pessimism and the optimism of his age due to modern inventions, new explorations and advancement of trades and commerce. These are plainly praiseworthy. ...read more.

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Response to the question

The question has two clear elements: mental pessimism and Victorian optimism. To make this a higher level answer each paragraph in the essay could have directly related back to these two points, with a topic sentence to guide the reader. ...

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Response to the question

The question has two clear elements: mental pessimism and Victorian optimism. To make this a higher level answer each paragraph in the essay could have directly related back to these two points, with a topic sentence to guide the reader. The writer does in places explicitly use the topic phrases, which structures the essay somewhat: to make the essay more accessible to the reader this should be applied to the entire essay.

Level of analysis

The writer uses several quotations to support the points throughout, which shows that they have not just been plucked out of thin air but come from the texts themselves; this is usually followed by some attempt at analysis, such as “enervating and languid movement of the verse as night falls”. This could have been extended by analysing how, technically the stanza is “enervating”, such as the enjambment of “the deep/Moans” and monosyllabic lines. Technical vocabulary such as this is good as it adds a more calculating analysis to the emotive interpretation of “enervating and languid”. Analysis of tone and atmosphere (such as “there lurks a sense of foreboding”) is done well, with the writer using key phrases like “creates a sense of”. Evaluation is limited, though critical interpretations have been included (the Henry James quote, for instance). Interpretations from critics and other viewpoints are essential to include as they show the examiner that you have considered other viewpoints other than your own and that you can weigh up which seems more likely in light of the evidence.

Quality of writing

Generally the quality of written communication is adequate, though occasionally fraught, such as “These above quoted two quotations are from two renowned poets of Victorian arena show the contrast attitudes to their time”, in which there are evident grammatical issues. The writer uses “we” throughout instead of the generally accepted 3rd person, which is not advised as it makes the essay seem more informal and less like an academic essay. In terms of spelling and grammar the essay does not meet expectations for written work at A-Level. Technical terms could also have been used, such as considering the meter of the poem (unrhymed iambic pentameter), which would give the essay a tone of knowledge and research.


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