Anxiety Essay

This essay has a total of 2634 words and 14 pages.

Anxiety

Analysis of _The Age of Anxiety_ by W.H. Auden

The themes and ideas in Auden's _The Age of Anxiety_ reflect his belief
that man's quest for self actualization is in vain.

I. Auden's background
A. As a 1930's poet
1. Views of Society
2. Diagnosis of the industrial society
B. Major conflicts of his works
II. _The Age of Anxiety_ overview
A. As a quest poem
1. Characters' search for self-actualization
2. Characters' inevitable failure in the quest
B. Characters' views on the general situation
1. Their belief to be in Purgatory when they are allegorically in Hell
2. Their disbelief in impossibility
III. _The Age of Anxiety_ character analysis
A. Quant
B. Malin
C. Rosetta
D. Emble
IV. Part I
A. Commonly called "Prologue"
B. Introduces scene and characters
C. Characters think aloud to reveal their nature
1. Quant views himself with false admiration
2. Malin examines the theoretical nature of man
3. Rosetta endeavors to create an imaginary and happy past
4. Emble passes his youthful judgment on the others' follies
V. First act of Part II, "The Seven Ages"
A. Malin's domination of this act
1. Serves as a guide
2. Controls the characters through his introduction of each age
B. Others support Malin's theories by drawing from past, present, and
potential future experiences
C. The ages
1. The first age
a. Malin asks the reader to "Behold the infant"
b. Child is "helpless in cradle and / Righteous still" but already has a
"Dread in his dreams"
2. The second age
a. Youth, as Malin describes it
b. Age at which man realizes "his life-bet with a lying self"
c. Naive belief in self and place in life is boundless
d. It is the age of belief in the possibility of a future
3. The third age
a. The sexual awakening
b. Distinction between dream and reality
c. Discovery that love, as it was thought to be, is a sharp contrast to love
in the bounds of reality
4. The fourth age
a. Presents circus imagery "as a form of art too close to life to have any
purgative effect on the audience"
b. Rosetta's definition of life and the world
5. The fifth age
a. Conveys the image of man as "an astonished victor"
b. Man believes he has made peace with the meaning of life
c. Anxiety declines as "He [man] learns to speak / Softer and slower, not
to seem so eager"
d. Man is no longer confined to a prison of prismatic color, but is free in
the dull, bland place that is the world
e. Emble's opposition of the fifth age
(1) Refuses to go willingly into middle age
(2) Demands to know why man must "Leave out the worst / Pang of
youth"
(3) Is disturbed by time unlike the others for he is still young enough to
have a future
f. Quant's domination of the fifth age
(1) Attempt to eliminate all hope
(2) View on man's adaptation to the fifth age
6. The sixth age
a. Man begins to show age
b. "Impotent, aged, and successful," Malin's portrayal of a man of this
age is indifferent to the world
7. The seventh age
a. Hypothetical man is tired out
b. Malin is ready for this age in contrast to the others' reluctance to die
just yet
VI. Second act of Part II, "The Seven Stages"
A. Unlike "The Seven Ages," this act is nothing more than a dream
B. "The Seven Stages" is an attempt to find the perfect time of life
C. The stages
1. The first stage
a. Each character begins alone, "isolated with his own thoughts"
b. Justification of the view that the quest is for naught
2. The second stage
a. Is initiated by the first pairing of characters
(1) Shows possibility of hope
(a) Emble
(b) Rosetta
(2) Shows futility of hope
(a) Quant
(b) Malin
3. The third stage
a. Begins as the couples turn inland
(1) Emble and Rosetta by plane
(2) Quant and Malin by train
b. The characters complete the third stage without success in their search
for self
4. The fourth stage
a. Malin speaks for them all in his derogatorative statements about the
city
b. Malin passes judgment on its citizens based on the urban surroundings

5. The fifth stage
a. Rosetta visits a mansion in which she wishes she were raised and to
which she wishes she shall return
b. While Rosetta is within the house, the others examine its exterior and
its comparison to the human body
c. Rosetta finds life inside the house no better than before
6. The sixth stage
a. A "forgotten graveyard" is the setting
b. Symbolizes "The results of life"
7. The seventh stage
a. The characters wander deep into a forest, each taking a solitary path
b. They meet at the edge of the forest with a desert before them
c. As they realize that life has no meaning, the desert becomes the real
world, thus ending this stage with their awakening
VII. The remaining three parts
A. Follows the characters from the bar to their homes
B. The four remember the despair of the conclusion of "The Seven
Stages" rather than the journey itself



Analysis of _The Age of Anxiety_

In Auden's lengthy poem, _The Age of Anxiety_, he follows the actions
and thoughts of four characters who happen to meet in a bar during a
war. Their interactions with one another lead them on an imaginary
quest in their minds in which they attempt, without success, to discover
themselves. The themes and ideas that Auden's _The Age of Anxiety_
conveys reflect his belief that man's quest for self-actualization is in vain.
W. H. Auden was born in York, England, in 1907, the third and youngest
son of Constance and George Auden (Magill 72). His poetry in the 1930's
reflected the world of his era, a world of depression, Fascism, and war.
His works adopt a prose of a "clinical diagrostician [sic] anatomizing
society" and interpret social and spiritual acts as failures of
communication (Magill 74). They also put forth a diagnosis of the
industrial English society among economic and moral decay in the 1930's
(Magill 72). Conflicts common in his works are those between war and
peace, corruption of modern society, and the "dichotomy between the
rich and the poor" (Barrows 317).
_The Age of Anxiety_ is, in general, a quest poem. Unlike the ideal
quest, however, this quest accomplishes nothing. The characters search
for the meaning of self and, in essence, the meaning of life, but because
their search is triggered by intoxication due to alchohol, the quest is
doomed from the start. Throughout the quest, the characters believe
themselves to be in a form of Purgatory when they are allegorically in
Hell. They fail to realize this due to "the modern human condition which
denies possibility but refuses to call it impossible" (Nelson 117).
In _The Age of Anxiety_, there are four characters of significance.
Continues for 7 more pages >>




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