Alfred Lord Tennyson, a Victorian poet, used characters from history and mythology for his poetry. Much of his poetry touches upon the subject of death and loneliness. For example, the Lady of Shallot dies when she looks beyond her inner world, Mariana lives in constant sadness over her departed lover, and Tithonus lives forever in an agony worse than death. With a background of melancholia, isolation or anguish Tennyson conveys themes of half-life and death-in-life by the use of uses imagery, symbolism and figures of speech.
In the dramatic monologue “Tithonus,” Tennyson instructs the reader that immortality is not necessarily a desirable thing as Tithonus tries to convince Aurora to make him mortal again. In the poem, Tithonus asks Aurora to grant him immortality, which she does. Although in actual mythology Zeus grants immortality, it is immortality and not eternal youth that Tithonus receives. Therefore, he now “withers slowly” with a fate worse than death since many jealous gods “beat me down and marred and waste me.” Tithonus presents the natural cycle of life followed by death by describing how first, “Man comes” then he “tills the fields” and finally “lies beneath”. However, his “cruel immortality” prevents him from following the same pattern. The rhetorical question, “Why should a man desire in any way/To vary from the kindly race of man…as is most meet for all?” indicates his realization of the absurdity in asking for immortal life. His wish to be immortal like the gods can be interpreted as alluding to Adam and Eve’s desire for the knowledge of God. Anyway, as a “soft air fans the clouds apart” (personification), Tithonus sees the “dark world” to which he be...
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...cument 1). Mariana lives in her own world, still believing that her lover will come, believing that “Old faces glimmer’d thro’ the doors,” and confounded by the “slow clock ticking, and the sound/Which to the wooing wind aloof/The poplar made.”
As evident in these three poems, “Tithonus,” “Lady of Shallot” and “Mariana in the Moated Grange,” Tennyson often portrays the world as a sad place. Many times, like in “Tithonus” and “Lady of Shallot,” there is a conflict between wishes and desires. Also, Tennyson often uses the outer environment to heighten the emotions experienced by the characters. In short, Tennyson is able to convey his themes of half-life and death-in-life through the use of imagery, symbolism and figures of speech.
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