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Discuss the experience of conflicting emotions in In Memoriam - Focus on the Tennyson's reflection of the issues ofthe day and on the use of language, form and imagery.

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Introduction

Discuss the experience of conflicting emotions in In Memoriam. Focus on the Tennyson's reflection of the issues of the day and on the use of language, form and imagery. In Memoriam was written during a time of severe cultural upheaval where scientific beliefs such as Darwinism had encroached on what had been dogma: the very nature of spiritual fulfilment was questioned, and the death of Arthur Henry Hallam simply reinforced for Tennyson a sense that meaning had been sapped from life. The fluctuating reality of nature created a perpetual uncertainty in the Victorian era and this state of feeling is captured well in the poem: the poem is structured in an entirely regular way but within the quatrains, the language and emotions expressed oscillate between moods of scepticism and faith. These oscillations are captured in perfectly appropriate imagery, and Tennyson's ability to write with a musical quality in his words leaves the whole poem with a slow and pained tone. ...read more.

Middle

This is an acknowledgement of man's ultimate vulnerability, yet despite this acceptance, Tennyson clings to some vain hope, and this is reflected in the imagery. He hopes that the arrival of the "light," and the end of the "night" will reveal some greater truth - a greater truth that he has clearly rejected, but one that he continues to examine in detail, spurred on by a natural Victorian instinct for order and hierarchy: despite saying that the hope that "every winter [will] change to spring," is merely a "dream," it is an unpalatable reality to face to Tennyson fights it using unapologetically emotional language that ignores reason and questions relentlessly. The abundance of colons reveals a fragmented mental state, where his line of thought runs on quickly, unable to succinctly conclude the ideas - the repetition of variations on the verb "cry" reinforce this sense of incomprehension where Tennyson struggles to find words to express his feelings. ...read more.

Conclusion

Although he is unable to resolve his emotions, by lowering the pace of the stanza (a medial caesura in the final line halts the flow of the words) and using simple words (only one word has more than two syllables), Tennyson faces his doubt and refuses to challenge it as he did earlier in the poem. His final solution is elegant and elegantly expressed: in section 129 he writes "Behold, I dream a dream of good,/ And mingle all the world with thee." When Ludwig Mies van dour Rohe said "God is in the details," he expressed a deeply Pantheistic hope, yet for Tennyson the fact that this hope is a "dream" was irrelevant as it was "a dream of good." By "mingling all the world" with his desire for the existence of God he ignored the objective reality, but achieved harmony between his heart and mind - to Tennyson, it did not matter if reality consisted of Nature who is "red in tooth and claw" because he had the ability to shape the world in any way he saw fit. SHASHANK JOSHI ...read more.

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