Keats Escaping from Reality Essay

Keats Escaping from Reality Essay

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John Keats by all counts had a life riddled with sadness. His father died when he was young, and his mother left his life for a period after his death. Then when she reappeared, she was in poor health and died soon after. Not too long after that, his brother passed away as well. Keats struggled with money for most of his life. Despite being in good health, Keats was overwhelmed by the feeling that he too was destined for an early death. He ended up being right, and died at age 25. There was a period of time where Keats was crushed by critics and he was described by Percy Shelley as “a pale flower” in Adonais. Keats is renowned for being an escapist poet, meaning he uses his poetry to escape from his bitter reality into an imaginative world, but he is forever cognizant of the fact that the reality that plagues him is unavoidable and not fully worth avoiding. Keats is tormented by the disconnection between the ideal and the actual, never truly being able to achieve happiness.
Keats’ Ode to a Nightingale is a perfect example of this escapism. In the third stanza, the speaker is describing to the nightingale the bitter world that it does not know of. The nightingale “has never known // the weariness, the fever, and the fret // here, where men sit and hear each other groan; // where palsy shakes a few, sad, last gray hairs, //where youth grows pale, and spectre-thin, and dies; // where but to think is to be full of sorrow // and leaden-eyed despairs” (Keats 23-28). Here, Keats is echoing the harsh reality that has been his life and what he sees as all life. Keats’ view of life is one full of misery, pain, struggle, and death. He writes of men getting old and losing control over their hands, groaning and complaining. He also writes o...

... middle of paper ...

...missing the richness and diversity of life.
So John Keats is an escapist because he seeks escape from reality. However, he is never truly able to escape. No matter how deep he buries himself in poetry or art, it gives only momentary respite before he is shot back to reality and reminded of the limitations of being lost in a stationary scene. He is an escapist that never truly escapes, tied down to the very thing he tries to escape from. Keats is doomed to be unhappy, for the kind of life that would satisfy his mind is impossible.

Works Cited
Keats, John. "Ode on a Grecian Urn." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. D. N.p.: W.W. Norton &, 2012. 930-31. Print.
Keats, John. "Ode to a Nightingale." The Norton Anthology of English Literature. Ed. Stephen Greenblatt. 9th ed. Vol. D. N.p.: W.W. Norton &, 2012. 927-29. Print.

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