Analysis of Dixon's "Shaken from her Sleep"

`A poem contains within itself all the material we need to appreciate it. If more is required, the poem will be so much the less successful.'

This proposition is influenced by the new critics' hypothesis, popularized in the past five decades. They believe in the completeness of the text, and are faithful to the critics' duty to scrutinize the poem without taking any external information to consideration. I partly agree with the statement. It is true that the most important element in analysing a poem is the text, which is supposed to be complete within itself. Yet, how can we know that the appreciation we get from the pure text is a satisfactory one, or, other than that, how can we be sure that our perception of the text's meaning is free from the external knowledge?

New Criticism Approach

By collecting the lexical items in the text, we see how they are organized and interplay with each other, so that the meaning is efficiently presented to the reader. This strategy is, actually, an essential ingredient for close reading, which is important for a good reader. In Shaken from her Sleep, groups of lexical items help emphasizing the gloomy and depressive atmosphere, as well as giving value to the elements in the poem.

Remarkably, the whole structure of the poem is dominated by an only ambiguous word, "sense." The persona tells that a disturbed girl, worrying about her enlisted boyfriend, "can't make sense/ of those distant wars and this night's/ visitation." Looking at this expression solely, we associate "sense" with `understanding.' However, the context in the poem suggests another meaning -- sensory. Along the poem, we encounter verbs about sensory perception: "smells", "see", "finds", and "spies", highlighted by the ...

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...t she tries to forget, but still demonstrates itself in her dream. Psychology helps us to understand both situation and the condition of the girl's mind more profoundly.


As we have seen, reading only the text is sufficient in a certain extent. Yet, we cannot get rid of the knowledge that comes uninvitedly every time we read. Moreover, the background of a text is not always an intrusive presence, but an intimate part of it. All approaches are proposed to establish the best way of analysis, and each one successfully achieves its aim. Nevertheless, the reader is the one who actually makes an interpretation, not an approach, and it would be better to integrate the knowledge we have without concerning about the school, or to pick up the proper method for the proper text, basing on the objective that we can fully understand and appreciate any work we read.
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