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Essay/Term paper: A hopeless quality

Essay, term paper, research paper:  English Composition

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Tenets of Tenneyson in Tithonus

"Tithonus" was written by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. The poem"s setting is the ancient story

of Tithonus. Tithonus fell in love with Eos, goddess of the dawn, and asked her for immortality.

Unfortunately for Tithonus he did not ask for eternal youth, only eternal life. He, therefore,

grows old but never dies while Eos not only never dies but also never grows old. What makes

Tithonus"s situation worse is that "the gods themselves cannot recall their gifts" (49). This

dramatic monologue is characteristic of Tennyson.

Tithonus is an excellent example of a dramatic monologue. There is a speaker, Tithonus,

who is not the poet. There is an audience—the gods. Another characteristic of a dramatic

monologue found in Tithonus is an exchange between the speaker and the audience: "I asked

thee, "Give me immortality?"" (15). A character study is when the speaker speaks from an

extraordinary perspective: Tithonus is looking back on his decision, a decision which the reader

will never be able to make but can only dream of making. His portrayal of his decision causes the

common response to be rejected: most people would want eternal life, but Tithonus proves this

short-sighted. Tithonus proves the wish for immortality vain by stating that:

Why should a man desire in any way

To vary from the kindly race of men,

Or pass beyond the goal of ordinance

Where all should pause, as is most meet for all? (29-31).

Another trait of the dramatic monologue is the dramatic, or critical, moment. In Tithonus this

moment is when Tithonus decides that he does not want immortality: "take back thy gift" (27).

"Tithonus" has all of the basic traits of a dramatic monologue: a speaker who is not the poet, an

identifiable audience, an exchange between the two, a critical moment, and a character study of

the speaker.

One other trait of a dramatic monologue is a dramatic tension. This tension is between

harsh judgment and sympathy. This tension makes the audience see objectively rather than

subjectively. The audience has sympathy for Tithonus, because he suffers: "strong hours

indignant worked their wills, and beat me down and marred and wasted me" (50) His telling the

story also bring sympathy from the audience. The audience must judge Tithonus negatively,

because he has made an error. His error was his will "to vary from the kindly race of men" (29).

The dramatic tension in "Tithonus" is caused by the clash of the audience"s sympathy with the

need to judge Tithonus"s actions.

"Tithonus" has many of the traits characteristic of Tennyson. One such tenet is world

weariness and the expression for rest, this is portrayed by Tithonus"s desire to grow old and die.

Didacticism, or instructiveness, is found in the statement, "happy men. . . have the power to die"

(70). Another tenet of Tennyson present is it is a form of a narrative, a monologue. "Tithonus"

also contains the fulfillment of the responsibility as a poet to teach the masses: Tennyson teaches

that man"s mortality is a blessing. The great Romantic and Victorian theme of the past is also

prevalent in Tithonus"s will to undo the curse of immortality: "take back thy gift" (27). One very

obvious tenet of Tennyson is the recasting of ancient myths: Tennyson tells the ancient story of

Tithonus. Isolation and estrangement, another tenet of Tennyson, is present in Tithonus"s part

man and part god status which alienates him from both: "immortal age beside immortal youth"

(22). Tennyson also uses elevated, stately, medieval diction: "thine," "thy," and "thee" (6, 27,

53). In "Tithonus" Tennyson shows that he is a poet of progress and change: "the woods decay,

the woods decay and fall" (1). Tennyson also portrays social awareness of the importance his

message has to the culture: he shows the social significance of immortality, a dream many people

have, and the alienation it causes by varying man "from the kindly race of men" (29). This poem

indirectly suppresses sexuality by showing a negative outcome of lust between two individuals.

This esoteric poem offers a didactic statement of the poet"s moral and social commitment:

"Where all should pause, as is most meet for all" (31). "Tithonus" has an underlying sense of

escapism in that Tithonus wishes to escape the endless frustrations of life: "release me, and

restore me to the grave" (72). Through this quote, Tennyson also shows his yearning for

permanence, the permanence of death. Tennyson also depicts his patriotism, patriotism to the

"race of men" by trying to teach others not to wish to vary from it (29). "Tithonus" contains

most of the major tenets of Tennyson.

In the end, this poem is about decision making and the eternal consequences of decisions.

Through Tithonus"s misadventures of immortality, the audience learns that immortality is not for

man, and it is through the dramatic tension that the audience sees this objectively. Tennyson

stresses the art of good decision making and the importance of our decisions because of the

possibly eternal significance they have.


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