The Prelude - William Wordsworth

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Fardad Hajirostami
Guilty Conscience
In his poem, “The Prelude”, William Wordsworth relives a childhood epiphany that alters his perception of nature. Wordsworth describes this experience of his through his voyage in a boat which later dramatically turns into a nightmarish journey. Through use of suspenseful diction, dramatic personification, and descriptive syntax, Wordsworth vividly illustrates his perception of nature and how he views it with certain trepidation after he encounters a “towering” and horrific figure.

The opening lines of the poem immediately personify nature as having a feministic quality. When Wordsworth stumbles upon a boat and unloosens its chain, he describes this incident as an “act of stealth and troubled pleasure”. Wordsworth in a way foreshadows possible dangers that are lurking in the near future due to his guilty conscience. This guilty conscience can also be interpreted as a consequence of the sexual seduction of nature and the boat as suggested by the author’s syntax and tone. The author’s mentioning of the boat as “an elfin pinnace” and the description of how he “lustily … dipped [his] oars into the silent lake” confirm the author’s premature and lascivious tendencies. Wordsworth’s attitude towards the relationship that he shares with the boat also infers a sense of egotism and overconfidence. He describes himself as “one who rows, proud of his skill, to reach a chosen point with an unswerving line,” with a “fixed” view. Wordsworth’s syntax and his choice of the words “fixed”, “chosen” and “unswerving” all further develop and emphasize his haughty youthful character.

Later in the poem, when Wordsworth witnesses a monstrous black figure appearing on the horizon that seemed to acquire an “utmost boundary”, a sudden shift in tone and diction takes place. The author’s seemingly control of nature and his sexual dominance is abruptly stolen away from him due to a symbolic black figure that in a way represents Wordsworth’s guilty...
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