In "An Elegy Wrote in a Country Church Yard," Gray symbolizes the objectification of the poor as well as the commodification of nature. In doing this, Gray arranges a hierarchy of objectification within the poem. The hierarchical arrangement begins with nature and continues through the poor with the upper class at the apex of the "pyramid." Gray uses the recurring images of nature to illustrate this organization of classes. To accomplish this arrangement, he shifts the focus from nature to the poor through these images. Finally, in "An Elegy Wrote in a Country Church Yard," death of the poor is the only hope for both nature and the peasants to obtain freedom. In other words, by dying, the poor are no longer objectified by the upper class and nature is no longer objectified by the poor. In his "Elegy," Gray symbolizes the objectification of the poor and nature through a hierarchical arrangement and states that death is the only means by which they can both be free.
First, Gray uses images of nature to show the pyramid of power and control in society. Through the imagery of the poem, Gray illustrates the ownership of the land and the poor. They are commodities of the wealthy, land owning members of the upper class. Gray writes "Oft did the Harvest to their Sickle Yield/ Their Furrow oft the stubborn Glebe has broke;/How bowed the Woods beneath their sturdy Stroke!"(lines 25-26, 28). These lines not only symbolize the commodification of nature but also of the lower classes. The image of the woods bowing to the poor shows the control the peasants have over nature. The breaking of the land by the sickle also demonstrates the physical might and domination the poor ...
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...image of water. Images of the woods "bowing" to the poor workers and of the oceans carrying the sins of the people illustrate the commodification of nature. Images of the poor "wading through Slaughter" and of them harvesting the fields demonstrate the objectification of the lower class in English society. In doing this, Gray establishes a class system with the upper classes controlling the members of the lower classes. After establishing this system of society, Gray then shifts the focus of the poem from the hierarchy to the emancipation of these commodities. Death is the only means for the poor and the land to be freed from society.
Gray, Thomas. "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard." in Damrosch, David. The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Volume 1C The Restoration and the 18th Century. New York: Addison Wesley Longman, Inc. 1999.
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