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The shadow of death hangs over all of Auden's poems. To what extent do you agree with this assessment?

By amyharrington Nov 29, 2013 645 Words
‘The shadow of death hangs over all of Auden’s poems’. Do you agree with this assessment of Auden’s poetry.

I agree with the assessment that the shadow of death hangs over all of Auden’s poems- this is because although not all of his poems have a dark, gloomy feel throughout, but they all leave the reader with an impression from their morbid plots. Auden’s poem ‘1st September 1939’ is full of allusions, meaning that for the reader to fully understand the message of the poem, they should take time and research the underlying messages. Auden uses these allusions to create this idea of underlying information to help the reader to see that that is what he believes the people of the time should have done, rather than just doing and believing what their government was saying to them in a time of war. It seems that Auden believed that if the public were to delve deeper into the horrific situation of World War II, then there would have been so many less deaths caused by the fighting. The free, unstructured stanzas in the poem show the chaos and blur that the narrator, who is possibly Auden himself, is thinking about. Clusters of words, such as “grave”, “pain” and “suffer” also help to show that death, especially on a large scale, is at the centre of this poem. ‘O What Is That Sound’ is another one of Auden’s poems which is cantered around war, but this time we are aware that the war is likely to be a civil one, due to the narrator’s description of the “scarlet soldiers”. The marching rhythm of this poem ensures that the reader reads it to a certain tempo, one that is very familiarly linked with soldiers and their marching. At the end of the poem, the soldiers finally reach their destination and we are told that the lock is “broken” and the door is “splintered”, these two words show that force is used. We are also told that their eyes are “burning”, linking back to the pain expressed in ‘1st September 1939’. ‘Miss Gee’ and ‘Victor’ are both fairly similar in that they have a nursery rhyme feel but both have death to be their main events, this nursery rhyme rhythm seems to mock both of the main characters. In Victor, Victor’s father dies at the beginning and at the end Victor kills his wife Anna- “alpha and omega” represent this as they are the first and last letters in the Greek alphabet- they symbolise the beginning and end of the poem. In ‘Miss Gee’, we are made aware from the beginning that Edith is unwell, with her “narrow” shoulders and “thin” lips. It Is revealed further on in the poem that Miss Gee infact suffers from cancer, the “hidden assassin”. When Miss Gee dies, she is used by a surgeon to teach students, but we are told that Mr Rose “cuts Miss Gee in half”, and that the students laugh when she is “laid” on the table; this shows that there is little respect for Miss Gee, even after she has passed. Her body is then “hung” from the ceiling and used as a teacher aid while students practised their skills on her corpse. ‘James Honeyman’ leaves the reader with a sense of confusion after reading the poem, this is because it is a very light hearted, distant poem that tells the story of a lonely, unusual boy as he goes through his life - he gets married and has a child, all while having the goal of becoming famous as a result of one of his inventions – but has a sudden poignant ending. Eventually James becomes famous after inventing a toxic gas, but little does he know that this gas is going to be the poison that kills him and his family.

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