Thursday, March 25, 2010

Women and nature

In both The Lady of Shalott and Mariana I noticed Tennyson's use of nature to illustrate the condition of the central character. As Kathryn points out, the decay of the world around her reflects Mariana's passive degradation. In the third stanza, the oxen's low "without hope of changes" captures her sense of hopeless desertion.

Likewise, in The Lady of Shalott, Tennyson uses the setting to shed light on the protagonist. The entire country seems to have a sense of enchantment, from the image of the sun, the white willows, and the "stream that runneth ever. When the spell is broken, the pastoral imagery changes into stormy weather, the woods turn pale yellow, the stream strains its banks, foreshadowing the Lady's loss of control. I felt like her action had a deep sense of irrationality, since she seems to fulfill her own curse.


  1. I also noticed the emphasis on nature, especially in Mariana. I thought it was interesting how her situation is connected to nature in all the stanzas. The situation of the house in the first stanza shows that she cannot possibly be living there and the connection is more psychological. Like Kathryn and Liz said, you wonder what the story is behind her and the decaying of the house because I feel like that would affect the interpretation.

  2. I like the last line of your post, and the points that were brought up in class about the curse being a self-fulfilling prophecy and the Lady's struggle with reality/fantasy. I think the poem speaks to the Lady's inability to accept reality--it seems like she has imprisoned herself in the tower, chained by how she imagines the world is. When she unleashes the curse upon herself by looking out the window, she is stunned by the harsh reality of the scenes she has sewn. She fulfills her own curse by allowing herself to die, but she does so as an escape from reality. I'm not sure this shows a "deep sense of irrationality" on the Lady's but rather comments on her inability to handle reality.

  3. Peter,
    I think you made a good point on the fact that Tennyson uses the setting to "shed light on the protagonist." As we talked about in class, the Lady of Shalott is compared to Penelope in the Odyssey. While you focus on women and nature, I also noticed that in the Lotus Eaters, he creates a setting also from the Odyssey where the sailors don't want to leave because of the entranced state of mind they are in because of the island's spellbound imagery that makes them forget their outside lives and leaving.