Literature is filled with the rise and fall of heroes, of civilizations, of men in general. The Romantic Era in England turned out works that dealt specifically with the rise and fall of the human spirit. Writers examined what makes us thrive as humans, and similarly what makes us fail. Such works commonly contain the theme of spiritual or social atrophy, and because the Industrial Revolution was in full swing at the time, these works often address the modern human break with the natural world. The question posed is this: Have we as humans sold out, and can we be saved from our own destruction? Works by Mary Shelley, William Wordsworth and Lord Byron demonstrate the atrophy of humanity, but all three works present a solution for redemption.
Lord Byron's "Darkness" serves as an indirect warning to the reader. Byron makes no "call to action"; in the first line he suggests that his vision is "not all a dream," (l. 1) but simply what will happen if change does not occur-even what has already begun to happen. The poem is aptly titled; its theme is the reign of darkness in the last days of man. The only light in Byron's dream comes from the fire of destruction: "the habitations of all things which dwell were burnt for beacons," (l. 13). Homes (which represent civilization) are destroyed to aid survival. The humans in Byron's vision hastened their own destruction, they "fed their funeral piles with fuel." (l. 38). In Byron's vision, the birds have "useless wings," famine reigns, and even dogs attack the corpses of their masters. One dog provides an isolated occasion of hope in the poem: "he was faithful to a corse, and kept the birds and beast and famish'd men at...
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...th nature the entire time, he would not have experienced such despair and loss.
Though Victor Frankenstein was doomed to destruction, by his story Shelley presents a solution for the reader: Do not lose your connection with the natural world or with your family and friends. Wordsworth and Byron beckon similarly to the reader to foster love and passion for life, because such pursuits will keep the reader's spirit from atrophy. Wordsworth uses himself as an example, writing that a poet is "a man pleased with his own passions and volitions, and who rejoices more than other men in the spirit of life," (Wordsworth 1443). All three writers agree that in order to keep his spirit alive, a man must pursue things outside of himself, whether that pursuit is love, awe of nature or a passion for poetry. Their message is clear: Stay passionate, and you will stay alive.
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