Subject English Duh

.. The Age of Anxiety , the “Prologue” as it is commonly called, introduces the scene and characters. The characters each think aloud in monologue so as to reveal their true nature to the reader. Quant views himself with false admiration, and Malin questions the natue of man. Rosetta constructs an imaginary past to compensate for a less than adequate one.

Emble, with youthful tact, passes judgment on the others’ follies (Nelson 118). The first act of Part II, “The Seven Ages,” is dominated by Malin, acting as a guide. He controls the actions of the characters through his introductions to each age. The other characters support his theories by drawing from their past, present, and potential future experiences (Nelson 118-119). The first age begins with Malin asking the reader to “Behold the infant” as though he is observing us as the infant while his own infancy fails to exist.

We Will Write a Custom Essay Specifically
For You For Only $13.90/page!

order now

The child is “helpless in cradle and / Righteous still” but already has a “Dread in his dreams.” By this, Auden means that even when we are most innocent, we are still imperfect (Nelson 119). The second age is youth, as Malin describes it. It is at this age at which man realizes “his life-bet with a lying self.” Despite this, man’s naive belief in self and place in life is boundless. It is in this age that the belief in the future is possible (Nelson 119). The third age is termed by Malin as the age of sexual awakening. It is in this age that the distinction between dream and reality begins to surface in the mind of man.

With this distinction comes the discovery that love, as it was thought to be, is a sharp contrast to love in the bounds of reality (Nelson 119). The fourth age presents circus imagery “as a form of art too close to life to have any purgative effect on the audience.” It is reinforced by Rosetta’s definitions of life as an “impertinent appetitive flux,” and the world as a “clown’s cosmos” (Nelson 119). Malin conveys the image of man as “an astonished victor” in the fifth age. Man in this age feel as though he has made peace with the meaning of life. The anxiety of life declines as “He [man] learns to speak / Softer and slower, not to seem so eager.” Here, man discovers he is no longer confined in a prison of prisimatic color, but free in the dull, bland place that is the world (Nelson 119-120).

Emble, being the youngest of the four, refuses to drift into the middle age of the fifth age willingly. Instead, he demands to know why man must “Leave out the worst / Pang of youth.” He is unlike the others in that he is still young enough to have an influence on his future (Nelson 120). Quant is more dominant in this age than any other for it is this age that he represents. In it, he attempts to eliminate all hope for a future. He feels that “if man cannot adjust to mediocrity, it is too bad. . .

If man asks for more, the world only gets worse” (Nelson 120). The sixth age is attributed to man’s “scars of time,” to man’s aging. “Impotent, aged, and successful,” Malin portrays man to be indifferent to the world (Nelson 120). “Hypothetical man” is exhausted when “His last illusions have lost patience / With the human enterprise” in the seventh age. Malin greets this age with preparedness, but the other characters feel reluctance in greeting death (Nelson 120). The second act of Part II of The Age of Anxiety , “The Seven Stages,” is different from “The Seven Ages” in that the first act is based on experiences and the second act consists entirely of a dream. The purpose of “The Seven Stages” is to determine the ideal time of life for man in which he can reside for eternity (Nelson 121).

The first stage begins like all quests begin, with all characters alone. They are each “isolated with his own thoughts.” Their journey ends in the same fashion, with each of them alone, which labels this as a false quest for nothing is accomplished (Nelson 121). The second stage is initiated by the pairing of the characters. This pairing represents the possibility of hope with the two youngest, Emble and Rosetta, and it also symbolizes the futility of hope with the two eldest, Quant and Malin (Nelson 121). The third stage begins as the couples begin to head inland.

Emble and Rosetta travel via plane, which symbolizes the useless attempt to escape life by flying above it. Quant and Malin, on the other hand, travel by train, which represents the same inability to escape life, although this time the method is through immersion into life (Nelson 121). In the fourth stage, Malin speaks for the group in his derogatory statements about the city. Malin also passes judgment on the people of the city not on the basis of personality content, but on that of the surroundings of which he thinks so lowly (Nelson 122). The fifth stage is reached when the group sights “the big house” while riding on a trolley.

Rosetta, with her false past as an outline, references the house to one in which she was imaginarily reared, and to which she shall return. During her visitation to the house, Quant and the others analyze the house’s exterior. Quant comments on the house’s appearance: “The facade has a lifeless look.” The house is compared to a human being, with its “book-lined rooms” serving as the brain and “the guards at the front gate [who] / Change with the seasons” serving as the senses. Rosetta finds her life within the house no better than before (Nelson 122). The sixth stage takes place in a “forgotten graveyard.” It is observed as a “still / Museum [exhibiting] / The results of life,” which could either be death or the life that results from death as the “Flittermice, finches / And flies restore / Their lost milieu” (Nelson 122).

The seventh stage begins as each character plunges deep into a dense forest where they are confronted by a vast desert. Here, Quant asks the question, “Do I love this world so well / That I have to know how it ends?” The four take heed of the question and realize that their quest has no meaning, and as they do so, their dream world drifts upwards into the realm of consciousness and the vast desert makes the transition to reality (Nelson 122-123). The remaining three parts follow each of the characters from the bar to their respective homes. They each remember the despair of the conclusion of “The Seven Stages,” but have no recollection of the journey itself (Nelson 123). Auden has effectively portrayed the flaw of man in his fruitless quest for the meaning of self. His representations of Quant and Malin as the elders whose future is bleak counters the bright and cheery illusion that Emble and Rosetta may possibly have a future, though, in reality, the only sure future is death. Works Cited Altick, Richard D.

Lives and Letters . New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 1969. Auden, W. H.

19th Century British Minor Poets . New York: Delacorte Press, 1966. —-. City Without Walls and Other Poems . New York: Random House, 1969. —-.

Secondary Worlds . New York: Random House, 1968. Bahlke, George W., ed. Critical Essays on W. H.

Auden . New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1991. Barrows, Marjorie Wescott, ed., et al. The American Experience: Poetry .

New York: MacMillan Publishing Co., Inc., 1974. Kunitz, Stanley J. And Haycraft, Howard, eds. Twentieth Century Authors . New York: The H.

W. Wilson Company, 1942. Magill, Frank N., ed. Critical Survey of Poetry . Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Salem Press, 1982. Nelson, Gerald. “From Changes of Heart ( The Age of Anxiety ).” Critical Essays on W.

H. Auden . Ed. George W. Bahlke. New York: G.

K. Hall & Co., 1991.