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Tennysons Poetry is defined by a desire to escape the world rather than engage with it. Do you agree? Explore in relation to Ulysses and The Lotos Eaters

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Introduction

'Tennyson's Poetry is defined by a desire to escape the world rather than engage with it'. Do you agree? Explore in relation to Ulysses and The Lotos Eaters Ulysses and The Lotos Eaters are both poems characterized by Tennyson as a means of 'escape'. Tennyson uses the dramatic monologue in Ulysses as a device to convey the sheer emotion felt by the protagonist for the loss of 'adventure' in his life. This is quite evident in his metaphor; 'How dull it is to pause, to rust unburnish'd, to not shine in use', which is constructed to use language that would be used to describe a sword that had fallen into disuse, a sword being a motif of war and adventure but also constructed by Tennyson as representative of Ulysses, who fears that over time he will lose his effectiveness, akin to how a sword rusts. He also characterizes the relationship between Ulysses and his son, Telemachus, well, using apathetic language such as 'blameless' but not strong, passionate language that he uses to describe his yearning for adventure, such as 'with a hungry heart'. ...read more.

Middle

Another, potentially subtler, technique he uses is soporific imagery and phonetic patterns that tie in with the notion of dreams, alternate realities where anything is potentially possible and is therefore a form of escapism. The entire poem is constructed in this way, often opting for words-'languid', 'driveth' 'galingale' 'slumbrous' etc-that, especially when describing sleepy imagery, force the reader to slow down and contain particular stresses that gives the poem a form of hypnotic rhythm, relating back to sleep and escapism. In addition to his use of phonetics and rhythm, Tennyson includes various images that make the 'sleep state', and therefore the state the Lotus-eaters offer, more appealing. 'The charmed sunset linger'd low', 'like downward smoke' and 'than tir'd eyelids upon tir'd eyes' are all examples that possess connotations of laziness or sleep, and therefore makes a more attractive option as opposed to the 'toil' experienced by the rest of the world, enhancing the desire for escape. Ulysses also accomplishes this in a similar way, by contrasting the positive aspects of the world of escapism with reality and its negatives; a more appealing conclusion can be drawn. ...read more.

Conclusion

The Lotos Eaters is more clearly defined because of the contrasts set up between reality and the alternative, with the nature of the Lotus eaters 'liberation' from work representing a clear desire for escapism. However, it can be argued from a metaphysical standpoint that the nature of humanity itself is to work, and that absent of hardship is absent of life, the act of succumbing to the Lotus in the poem can sometimes appear to carry connotations of death and sinister imagery, an example being 'through the moss the ivies creep', which evokes images of parasitic and sinister representations of the lotus fruit. Another particularly effective method used by Tennyson to reflect the sinister nature of temptation and escape, is his change of voice at the end of the choric song, without resistance the sailors perform a subtle voice shift, joining the lotus-eaters with no strict narrative event as to when it occurs. These techniques could be interpreted as Tennyson trying to highlight the darker side of escapism, and in so doing discourage it, however when compared to the rest of the substantial poem, it seems to fit the broad view that the Lotus fruit represents a clear narrative metaphor for escape of life. Matt Robins ...read more.

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