Angst, Longing and Couched Pessimism

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Introduction Most, if not all, cultures today place enormous value on childhood. The many structures present in our society protecting it are evidence to the great value placed upon childhood. Yet what is it that underlie this need to protect childhood? What is it in childhood we find valuable to the extent of protecting it? Of all the qualities of childhood, it is in innocence that we find great significance. Indeed, childhood garners most its worth from its perceived effortless innocence. This innocence, one that we attach most to childhood and for the purpose of this essay, is the quality of being pure in the sense of being ‘uncontaminated’, uncontaminated by sin, by the imperfections of people or by the harshness of living itself. Undoubtedly, many in culture like ours place great value on childhood, and more significantly, on the innocence it represents, precisely because people desire it, whether to recover it or develop it. However, it is claim of this essay that the recovery or the development of innocence is impossible and through analysing poems, demonstrate that impossibility. The poems chosen in this essay have a commonality in that all of them convey, through form and/or content, the nature of the many manifestations of the impossibility of innocence. Hide and Seek “Hide and Seek”, written by poet Vernon Scannell, is about theme of childhood, loss, and loneliness told through the popular eponymous game. Apparent in very structure of this poem is the aforementioned impossibility of innocence. The poem opens almost like a nostalgic recollection of a past event as it starts in the middle of a game, “Call out. Call loud: ‘I’m ready! Come and find me!’” That it is an enthusiastic child’s voice is evident not only in the ... ... middle of paper ... ...mism of Vernon Scanell’s ‘Hide and Seek’ to the expatiation of contradictory and impossible demands of Kipling’s “If” or to the study of the longing and reminiscence in Gabriel Okara’s “Once Upon A Time” (and coupled with other readings such as Louis MacNeice’s “Prayer Before Birth”, Mervyn Morrison’s “Little Boy Crying, UA. Fanthorpe’s “Half-past Two”) this essay have tried to portray the many facets that the impossibility of innocence can manifests itself. Through the angst, couched pessimism and longing apparent in the poem, one observes the unconscious realization of impossibility of the much valued ideal. However, also through this study, one could see that childhood and the ideal of innocence that it represents, impossible as they are, are nonetheless powerful motivation for literary excellence and, indeed, excellence in conduct in many other aspects of life.

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