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Theme of Alienation in Modern Poetry

  • Date Submitted: 01/22/2011 08:18 AM
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Theme of alienation in modern literature
“Alienation” has been the recurring theme in the 20th century English Literature. While the eminent literary personalities conceived it as the ailment of the modern society, many critics considered it as the objective fact of man’s life in society and not the mere “psychological and spiritual concept” referring to a state of mind.
Although the concept has found its true expression in 20th century literature, many critics have perceived a subtle glimpse of “alienation” in Keats’s “O What can ail thee, knight-at-arms/Alone and palely loitering?”. However, in later years, the theory was strongly rebuffed, because the ailment of the romantic knight cannot be misapprehended as the modern “ailment of alienation, because Keats’s romantic knight is self-alienated in the sense that he has been denuded of the dynamism of his warrior-self once contaminated by Medusan beauty. Here knight remains the romantic here and never alienated from the traditional qualities of a medieval knight. However, the modern concept of alienation refers to the ailment of the society which neither imparts a heroic attribute nor a romantic characteristic to a man, rather the predicament of man and woman in the 20th century makes a man “anti-hero” and a woman “a street girl in a modern industrial city out on her nocturnal rounds”, as projected by Eliot in one of his early poems. Modern man is bereft of human qualities, which alienates him from the true essence of human life.
“….Regard that woman/Who hesitates towards you in the light of the door/ Which opens her like a grin/……..her hand twists a paper-rose/that smells of dust and eau de Cologne/She is alone/ With all her nocturnal smells/That cross and cross across her brains”. (Rhapsody on a Windy night)
Here, Eliot has tried to highlight distinctly the economic dimension of alienation suffered by a woman, who confronts the market-based world with no resources barring her sex. The condition is quite...


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