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Human Suffering in Lyrical Ballads

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"Lyrical Ballads" Exam Question 'How does Wordsworth and Coleridge show sympathy for human suffering?' William Wordsworth and Samuel Taylor Coleridge both compiled 'Lyrical Ballads' with the aim of appealing to the middle and lower forms of society. Wordsworth states in his famous preface that in order for the lower classes to understand his work, he has composed the language of the poems to match the "language really used by men". By appealing to these classes, both authors were able to convey a sense of sympathy for those who had been unfortunate enough to be imprisoned or isolated from society. However, the level of sympathy evoked in poems such as The Convict and The Dungeon presented criticism from members of the public, who deemed Wordsworth and Coleridge as being too sympathetic towards common criminals. Both writers were heavily influenced by the work of the naturalist philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau, who argued that society ultimately corrupts what is originally virtuous in man. In Coleridge's The Dungeon, the reader observes the central core of Rousseau's work through the narrative of a man trapped inside a dungeon (that being society's corrupting influence). ...read more.


Wordsworth's subtler criticism of society's negligence towards the convict is more clearly stated when the onlooker declares to the convict; "Poor victim! No idle intruder has stood". In a similar fashion to The Dungeon, the use of the adjective "poor" helps to evoke this sense of pathos and sympathy aimed at the reader. The paradoxical use of the adjective "victim" when describing the convict reinforces the idea of society's callous treatment towards him, which evokes a greater amount of sympathy from Wordsworth. The lines "no idle intruder has stood" emphasise society's reluctance to visit the convict. Instead, they have deliberately dejected him into isolation, despite his feelings of remorse. One poem that differs greatly from The Dungeon and The Convict is The Female Vagrant. However, although the poem differs in setting and narrative, it nonetheless captivates the suffering of a person as a result of the social and political agendas of the time. Wordsworth evokes sympathy from the offset in the juxtaposition of the noun "female" with the adjective "vagrant" in the title of the poem. ...read more.


-" in the final stanza, when describing her loss of dignity and eternal solitude. The words "thoughtless joy" in the first stanza are countered by the technique of enjambment in the words "Have I. -". Wordsworth isolates these words through a full-stop and a hyphen in order to visually illustrate the woman's destitute isolation, defining her tale as extremely sympathetic and woeful. Wordsworth and Coleridge elicit sympathy from the reader through a variety of literary techniques. In The Dungeon, Coleridge uses an irate narrator in order to display the inhumanity of the penal system and how it affects the man. Similarly in The Convict, Wordsworth uses the onlooker as the catalyst for sympathy between the convict and the reader. Although different in narrative, The Female Vagrant also utilizes a narrator in the final line of the poem in order to describe how the woman could not finish her tale because "She wept; - because she had no more to say". The device of the narrator to evoke sympathy is successfully used by Wordsworth in The Female Vagrant in order to visually summarise her utter heartache at the death of her family and the loss of her home. ?? ?? ?? ?? ...read more.

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