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Unhappiness in Human Beings

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In Thomas De Quincey's essay "Confessions of an English Opium Eater," the speaker discusses the problems associated with drugs. He suggests that his "dreams were accompanied by deep-seated anxiety and gloomy melancholy, such as are wholly incommunicable by words" (971). However, sadness and gloom do not belong exclusively to addicts as Shelley points out in his poem "To a Skylark." The everyday man also faces the same problem as De Quincey's opium eater as human beings have a tendency to focus on life's sadness. In his poem, Shelley uses the joyous skylark as a contrast to man in order to express the idea that human beings live a seeming unfulfilled life as any pleasure found in life also comes with unhappiness.

The speaker describes the skylark as a happy creature completely pure in its joy and unhampered by sorrow or misery. As the speaker watches the bird, he notes that it seems to soar through the sky "like an unbodied joy whose race is just begun" (ll. 15). The skylark seems to have an unending amount of "joy" as the bird's emotion has "just begun." Furth...

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...weet form of joy. Just as De Quincey's opium eater suffers from a melancholy state, so does the speaker feel burdened by the fact that he will never feel pure joy and therefore envies the skylark. Human beings can never escape the knowledge that they live mortal lives and will one day face death, and therefore never feel full contentment as they always look for more ways to enrich or enhance their lives. Mortal beings can never experience true happiness, always discontent with their current standing and looking for what they do not have.

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