Concept of Identity in "Rhapsody on a Windy Night"

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In an extended written response, explain what insights into the concept of identity are offered in “Rhapsody on a Windy Night” and how these insights are conveyed.

'Rhapsody on a Windy Night' is s poem written by T. S. Elliot which expresses the thoughts of a character alienated from society, and the meaningless routines of everyday life. 'Rhapsody' is an insight into the narrators mind whilst on a midnight stroll, and with the use of vivid imagery, Elliot manages to persuade the reader into questioning his very existence.

The poem is a self reflection of the narrator, as he walks through the city streets between the hours of midnight and four. In the opening stanza, the time is established as midnight; a time associated with beauty, spirituality and mystery. The moon is personified as being in control of the streets, and “whispering lunar incantations”. The effect Elliot creates with this is that the moon’s supernatural powers come into effect, helping the narrator collect his thoughts. The mechanical nature of his walk (“Every street lamp that I pass/ Beats like a fatalistic drum”) hints at the narrators thoughts being jumbled and rearranged as he walks. Finally, the last section of the first stanza (“Midnight shakes the memory/ Like a madman shakes a dead Geranium”) implies that the narrators journey is somewhat nightmarish and irrational, with a disturbing image of a “madman shaking a flower”. The repeated personification of the street lamps, (The street-lamp sputtered/ The street-lamp muttered) additionally adds another layer of nightmarish depth to the narrators walk.

The narrator, whilst trying to clear his thoughts, is plagued by convoluted and warped images in his memories. The use of the idiom “high and dry” to describe the images that the memory “throws up” implies that the narrator’s memories are of difficult times. The added personification of memory suggests that it is wild and controlling the narrator. Furthermore, the images that the...
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