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LESSON 9                ALFRED, LORD TENNYSON; CHARLES DARWIN        Reading Assignment:         Norton Anthology , pages 1084-1132; 1571-1575.        Writing Assignment: 1. Although the Introduction to the Victorian Age discusses the code of Puritanism and respectability which arose from the Evangelicals (a powerful and active religious sect, but a minority), Victorian writers were concerned with the general decay of a unifying religious faith. What problem of faith does Tennyson say that he is struggling with in sections 1-3 of In Memoriam ? Specifically summarize what he is saying in each section. Tennyson is dealing with the problem of Man’s significance to the universe. He discusses love and grief, but explains that his own thoughts are meaningless when we compare them to nature and time. In the last section, he is sorrowful. He could be referring to his lost love, the reason for his grief, or to the realization that he is insignificant to the “big picture” of life. In section 1, Tennyson explains that it is better to love and grieve than it is to forget. People should, like Goethe said, be resilient, and progressively rise from failure. Sometimes it’s hard to find positivity in our lives. Grief and love are naturally intertwined, and it’s inevitable that people will have negative experiences. Time will scorn those who have loved. They won’t stop being reminded them of their loss and will feel worn-down at times. In section 2, Tennyson explains that in the end, man and man’s life is insignificant compared with time. Tennyson uses the metaphor of a yew, which does not ever blossom or change, and sits on top of a graveyard, to symbolize time. Tennyson is gloomy about the fact that human life is so unimportant compared to Time. In section 3, Tennyson discusses sorrow, which he describes as deceitful, sweet, and bitter, all at the same time. He is accompanied by sorrow, and sorrow depresses him (as shown by his imagery of the “dying sun”). Sorrow makes him hollow. He questions whether he should keep sorrow in his mind or destroy it.
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2. In Memoriam may be divided according to the three parts which describe the three Christmases following the death of Arthur Henry Hallam. Contrast the poet's reaction on each of these holidays. (They begin with sections 28, 78, and 104.) The three Christmases are characterized by sorrow, acceptance, and hope. During the first Christmas, Tennyson is sorrowful. He explains in lines 5-8 that he cannot hear the Christmas bells, implying that he does not wish to be festive this Christmas. He describes his mental state in lines 13-16: “This year I slept and woke with pain, / I almost wished no more to wake, / And that my hold on life would break / Before I heard those bells again.” Here, he is explaining that the bells, ringing out “peace and goodwill” (lines 11-12), are painful to hear. He hopes that he dies soon, so that he never has to hear the message of the bells, because he is extremely sorrowful
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This note was uploaded on 06/10/2010 for the course ENG 113 taught by Professor Clark during the Spring '04 term at University of Saskatchewan- Management Area.

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