Edwin Arlington Robinson's treatment of character
King, John Clyde
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The first half of the opening chapter is a brief review of the leading events in Robinson's life. The rest of the chapter consists of brief notes about influences on Robinson, particularly the influences of Browning and Dickens. The fragmentary discussion of poetic influences if followed by comments on Robinson's imagery and rhetoric. The chapter ends with the assertion that the philosophy of Robinson must be examined in order to understand his treatment of character, because many of his character poems are concrete illustrations of some phase of a philosophical problem. The second chapter deals entirely with Robinson's philosophy. The discussion centers around the poet's philosophy of success and failure and his faith in a God and a meaning of the universe which he believes God has crested. The discussion or Robinson's faith begins with comments about the sonnet "Credo", which shows the poet's grimly holding on to some kind of faith in spite or black doubts and confusion of mind. At the end of the commentary on faith we find that Robinson's faith has grown strong enough so that he presents his faith vigorously while attacking determinists, pessimists, and unbelievers in "The Man against the Sky", it will be found that in the course of the chapter Robinson's philosophy of success and failure are not completely defined. We find only that spiritual success does not always accompany material success. Also the poet seems to think that material and spiritual may go together, out often material failure is accompanied with spiritual success, in the attempt to show what Robinson might consider a successful man I have tried to set up certain requirements for that man which seems to me to be indicated in Robinson's work. At last we found that Robinson, like Conrad, found that we cannot always be sure about the success or failure or an individual. In the realm of social and political philosophy Robinson seems very skeptical of democracy. To me his various criticisms of democracy indicate that he favored an aristocracy of the mind. The third chapter deals with the short character poems, it begins by excluding certain narrative poems from the discussion. There follows a short exposition of certain critical opinions about Robinson's poetry held by Robert Frost and Charles Cestre. Then b illustrations from Children of the Might it is shown that Robinson presented to his reader most of the kinds of character poems in which he was interested at the very beginning of his poetic career. Then the study or success and failure through character begins in earnest. First comes an examination of the poems which deal with success and failure in a specific situation, namely, marriage. The main types of poems found under this reading are: 1. poems in which the characters reveal themselves and their situation by their own speech--monologues and dialogues of analytical and reflective poems in which the characters themselves do not speak. Then comes the analysis of poems which deal with success and failure in life as a wnole. These poems are more reflective whether told directly by the author or by tne characters themselves. Then there are some illustrations of miscellaneous character poems wnich do not fall under the main heading of the chapter, finally there is a discussion of Robinson's development, in the field of characterization followed by a summary of the ground, covered in the cnapter. The fourth chapter begins with a simple statement of Robinson's approach to the Arthurian legend. The faults in the previous handling of the legends which he sought to correct are indicated here by short statements about Arnold and Swinburne and a brief analysis of the weaknesses in Tennyson's "Idylls of the King". Then comes a discussion of Merlin which tries to show that Robinson has created a plausible vivian plus a unified narrative. After some brief comments on "Lancelot", there is an analysis or Robinson's treatment of "Tristram". The method used in the greater part of analysis is the discussion or single characters with some comparison and contrast. The chapter ends with a summary which brings out the conclusion that Robinson has treated the legends in a manner which makes them plausible to modern readers. The fifth chapter deals briefly with Robinson's poetry after the composition of "Tristram". The late poetry is made up of lone narratives with one exception. Little need be said here about the chapter except that it tries to show the decline in Robinson's character poetry. The last chapter is an afterthought rather than a conclusion, because it seemed to me that I had stated most of my conclusions at various times in the course of the previous chapters. The general idea seems to be that Robinson had a didactic purpose; he is able to entertain the reader, and his poetry at times can evoke an emotional reaction.
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