Pathetic Fallacy In Lord Tennyson's Mariana

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To examine the use of Pathetic Fallacy in Lord Tennyson’s Poem ‘Mariana’ The idea of emotion being projected onto the surrounding environment till nature becomes a kind of mirror is epitomised in Lord Alfred Tennyson’s poem ‘Mariana’. The device used to signify this is ‘pathetic fallacy’ which is defined as “any representation of inanimate natural objects that ascribes to them human capabilities, sensations, and emotions” (Abrams 203).The poem, published in 1830, was inspired from a scene in William Shakespeare’s play Measure for Measure, where Mariana waits for her lover to come. In Tennyson’s poem, Mariana’s yearning is unfulfilled and her deepening unhappiness is depicted to an extremely significant extent by the decaying environment around…show more content…
Sounds like the “oxen's low” (28), “night-fowl crow” (26), “shrill winds” (50), “hinges creak'd” (62), “the mouse/Behind the mouldering wainscot shriek'd” (63-64) and “Old voices”(68) calling Mariana depict an environment filled with harsh noises; perhaps the only sounds Mariana can tolerate. They form a counterpoint to her constant lament “I am aweary, aweary” (35); this a world of disjuncture, disharmony and distance. The noises are close enough to hear but far enough to be only a part of the environment, emphasizing Mariana’s essential loneliness. Another parallel to the neglect she suffers is the house she lives in with its “thickly crusted” flower pots (1), “rusted nails” (3), “The broken sheds” which “look'd sad and strange” (5) and “Weeded and worn the ancient thatch” (7). The stagnant external world is a reflection of her neglected self, one from which there appears to be no escape but the death that Mariana constantly yearns…show more content…
Landow gives a valuable counter-perspective on pathetic fallacy when he says, “Although such a poetry proves eminently valuable in its ability to educate the reader about the experiences of life, it can never present a balanced, complete view of nature and man's existence” (“Ruskin’s Discussion of the Pathetic Fallacy”). However, in a poem like ‘Mariana’ it would seem that the lack of ‘balance’ is what makes the poem even more meaningful. Harold Bloom finds a mixture of Victorian scientific and Romantic thought in Tennyson’s depiction of nature because the latter attempts to “spiritualize nature in the sense of making it subservient to the needs of the human soul and of forcing it to become symbolical of human moods and passions” (147). He finds that “No lyric by Tennyson is more central to his sensibility than “Mariana,”” (xiv) and that “no poet has ever shown such depths of tenderness or such skill in interweaving the most delicate painting of nature with the utterance of profound emotion” (137). For Rhoda L. Flaxman, the use of “word-painting” in the poem creates a “faithfulness to a precise and consistent perspective focused through the viewpoint of a particular spectator. This point of view often yields an effect we moderns call cinematic, implying progress from one element to the next in a 'narrative of landscape’”(qtd in Lollar,“Word-Painting in Mariana and Pickwick”). David Goslee says, “…the poem moves us toward the realization that she is not

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