Symbol, Allusion, and Myth in Irving Layton's Rhine Boat Trip

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Symbol, Allusion, and Myth in Irving Layton's Rhine Boat Trip

"...haunted/by the ghosts of Jewish mothers/looking for their ghostly Children" (Layton). Though physical evidence of the Holocaust is now slightly limited, as time tends to destroy the tangible, the cry for justice and the remembrance of systematic genocide by a sadistic people enacting ignorant dogma will ring indefinitely throughout the world. Humanity will always be guilty of the atrocities that it instigates. Irving Layton, in his poem, Rhine Boat Trip, depicts the eternal evidence of the Nazi Crime, a stain of culpability that is reducible from all who have witnessed it. Layton is able to portray the onus of this horrific event through his employment of symbolism, allusion, and myth.

The everlasting, inescapable pain of the Holocaust is so imbedded in our culture that our senses can become paralyzed by the enormity of its reverberation through the years since the last chimney fire in Aushwitz was snuffed. Through his use of symbolism, Layton is able to -it a picture in the minds of his readers, one that juxtaposes the subject matter with his choice of diction.

Beginning with the title, Rhine Boat Trip, symbolism is installed in the poem. A boat trip on the Rhine is thought to be a journey through the ultimate bucolic paradise. What is encountered on this scenic route; however is far from the ideal vacation experience. Layton creates an ironic dichotomy between a life of luxury and intense human suffering. When the boat visits castles along the Rhine, its passengers are really witnessing the remnants of wealth accumulated by the Nazis from slave labor in concentration camps, a cruel practice that quickly stimulated the struggling German econom...

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...rnatural power.

Even the voices of the Lorelei, which sailors could not drown out of their ears, are ineffectual and in audible when the beauty of nature is tainted by the barbarity it has given to, forever reminded of the supremacist desire that went too far. Even the most serene places of the Rhine, are filled of reminders of a massive suffering and a people who could not face the truth of the wickedness found in the Aryan race for dominance.

Irving Layton's poem, Rhine Boat Tdp, depicts the immortality of the legacy left by those who were murdered, a legacy of remembrance they left in every breath of humanity, eternally seared with its guilt. Layton illustrates his message by expertly using literary devices such as symbolism, allusion, and myth. He is able to paint in the mind of the reader an unforgettable picture of human flaw and the karma of crime.
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