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Escape from Anxiety and Return to Reality in the Age of Anxiety

Author: WuYanLing
Tutor: ZhangYueJun
School: Central South University
Course: English Language and Literature
Keywords: The Age of Anxiety W. H. Auden escape quest acceptance
CLC: H059
Type: Master's thesis
Year: 2012
Downloads: 5
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Universally acclaimed for his verbal dexterity in capturing the naked throb of contemporary experiences, W. H. Auden occupies canonical status in the twentieth-century poetry and figures as a patron saint of nearly all modern critical schools. While strangely, few researches have made precise descriptions on his representative work The Age of Anxiety. Therefore, based on a close reading of the text and taking the perspective of social-historical research, this thesis attempts to give a comprehensive analysis of the four characters’escape from anxiety in this poem, so as to attain a better understanding and acceptance of the poet’s work and thought concerning contemporary experiences.Auden lived in an age when the world was turbulent and unstable; people were isolated from one another. Auden pointed out that anxiety was the basic problem of people who lived in such conditions. Inconstant changes in beliefs and living places and his seven-year neutral citizenship in America made Auden even more anxious. Auden inculcated his anxiety of his relationship between his past and future, his anxiety of the relationship between him and others, and his anxiety of the relationship between himself and the God on the characters of his long poem The Age of Anxiety; pinning his hope on getting through all his anxieties with the four characters’escapes. To Auden, poetry itself is the perfect embodiment of the poet himself, and the stage for the poet to demonstrate the self-activity on it. The creation of poetry is an excellent process of self-expression. Auden embodied his thoughts of human existence in his long poem The Age of Anxiety, and the four characters’quest for Eden is also the inner desire of his own. While the characters’failures on three unrealistic escapes made Auden became aware of the importance to accept his real life; he began to accept life as it was and tried to find the true meaning of life. Based on a close reading of the texts and taking the perspective of social-historical research, this thesis attempts to give a comprehensive analysis of the four characters’escape from anxiety, including their reasons for their escape, their ways to escape and their acceptance of life and themselves. Auden presents the impossibility of escaping from the existence, and secular life must be accepted rather than escaped no matter how hard it is in The Age of Anxiety.This thesis first analyzes the reasons for the characters’escape from their real life. From the aspect of the outer environment, world wars interrupted the tranquility of their life and made them alienate from one another. In such circumstances, people become more and more dissatisfied with their real life. From the inner side, inconstant changes in beliefs and living places provide neither domestic life nor spiritual security for Auden, and his seven-year neutral identity makes him even more anxious. So the great poet chooses to ingrain his own anxieties in the characters of his poem, attempting to get rid of them through the four characters’escapes. They first flee to the bar to make a hallucinatory world under the effect of alcohol, then they formulate a comprehensive system under the leadership of Malin; they finally flee to their dreams to get over their anxieties. Unfortunately, all their trials to shake off anxieties fail. They become aware of themselves and return to their duty when their disillusionment shattered.Auden stresses common people’s responsibility for the present and their devotion for their vocations, and attempts to connect personal act with historical events through The Age of Anxiety. This poem is also very important for people living in the modern society:only when we stand fast and remain in our post and take our responsibility, can we figure out the true meaning of life.

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