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Victorian Literature: Alfred Tennyson and Herbert Wells Essay

Poetry of Alfred Tennyson


Just like other Tennyson’s works, this poem depicts endless struggles and conflicts Odysseus and his mariners face as they trace their way back home from the Trojan War. The poet has based the accounts of this poem on the story of Odysseus and his mariners as described in the Homer’s Odyssey in the eleventh scroll. In this section, Homer gives an account of a strong storm the mariners encounter as they attempt to travel back to Ithaca (Humphries 45).

Their struggles and contentions are traced back to the Troy War. They have faced many challenges and struggles hoping for a better future. Even though Odysseus encourages his mariners, their hope diminishes as they land in the Land of Lotos. Rather than eating a delicious flower called lotos, people in this land rests the whole day, unlike the mariners who have been toiling throughout their lives (Montello 280). Based on the life people lead in the Lotos Island, the poet effectively depicts the theme of struggle and conflict in the human society.

The arrival of these men into this land has made them believe that resting is another side of life, which they have missed for more than ten years. They are divided between going back home and living a life without hard work and challenges they have faced in the past (Russell 376). Although Odysseus encourages the mariners that they will soon reach Ithaca, they are reluctant and would want to continue resting in the Island. The poet says that the land always seems afternoon to emphasize the aspect of tranquility and peaceful environment free from the constant struggles and conflict the mariners face. He uses those powerful words to evoke the mariners’ desire for peace, rest, and if possible death (Humphries 48).

The concept of “a life of toil” in the poem depicts the bible accounts in the Garden of Eden. After eating the forbidden fruit, the ultimate punishment of Adam was hard work and toil to get his daily needs. Nevertheless, Tennyson uses the inversion technique to oppose the biblical story. The approach creates a tempting and seductive perception of living a life without toil. The description he gives of the Lotos Land provides an image of pleasure and natural satisfaction without toil. He combines vivid descriptions and persuasive rhetoric in order to justify the decision made by the mariners to stay at Lotos Land (Montello 282).

Tennyson uses irony in the second stanza to express the struggles of a man through the mariners. Although the man represents the apex of God’s creation, he is the only creature that labors all day to make ends meet. The lotos tastes good and the perceived life in that land is alluring. Nevertheless, the poet suggests the mariners might be dreaming. They have succumbed to the mesmerizing influence of the lotos flower. When a person takes the flowers, they abandon the reality and start living in a fantastic world (Russell 379). Because they have eaten the lotos, they fantasize the world where everything seems the same.

The repetitive use of the word “seems” in the poem depicts the clash between imagination and reality. Living without doing anything is not in any way justifiable. The mariners struggled during the Trojan War could be meaningless if they end their journey at the land of Lotos.

The idea of leading a life without toil is definitely alluring. However, the idea is significantly unrealistic and disconcerting. The discomfort developed in the reader’s mind stem from the fact that Odysseus and his men will ultimately leave the Lotos-land. Having the idea beforehand overshadows the moral opprobrium of the entire poem (Montello 283). The mariners dislike the idea of engaging in war with the evil.

The situation undermines their hard work. Instead, the acceptance of Lotos-land demonstrates them too lazy to do the right thing and discern the wrong. Even though everyone agrees to the notion of carefree and relaxed life, achieving significant meaning in life and gaining heroic status is not possible without struggles and toil. The majority would be happy if they conquer challenges to create a different (Humphries 53). It is the main thing that inspires everyone to work hard and it is the reason Odysseus encourages the mariners to keep on struggling to reach Ithaca.

Crossing the Bar

The poem is another thrilling work of Tennyson, which depicts the contrasting aspects of life and death. Tennyson metaphorically uses the sandbar to illustrate the blockade between life and death. In real life, the sandbar refers to a sand ridge created by currents along the shore. The waves from an ocean must crash against this sandbar in order to reach the shore. During the process, a sound that Tennyson calls the “moaning of the bar” is created.

The “bar” description used by Tennyson reveals challenges between the life and death (Russell 383). The struggle depicted in the poem shows how a sick person will struggle to live before crossing over the bar to the death context.

The term “crossing” has been used as an image to refer to the Christian’s notion of death. When a person dies, Christians believe that they cross over to another world. The cross represents the suffering and death of Jesus as he was leaving the world to live in a new world. The idea depicted in the poem about crossing the bar illustrates the tension experienced in the death process (Montello 284). Even though the poet persuasively describes the process of crossing the boundary between life and death, the reality is that death is feared.

A person will only accept death if circumstances force them to die. The harsh reality of death is erased by the hope and belief about the good and peaceful life after death. Christians believe that God gives and takes life. God is the “pilot” who helps people to cross the bar to the new life. The hope of seeing creator or the “pilot” drives away the fear of death (Russell 384).

The Island of Dr. Moreau

The novel is one of the earliest scientific fictions with a sensation of the human evolution as depicted by Charles Darwin in his evolution concept. The story revolves around Dr. Moreau who decides to carry out an appalling experiment on animals in the tropical island. Through the eyes of Prendick, the reader sees the strange civilization of Beast Folk and the way they eventually undergo terrific regression (Kaye 409).

Although the development of technology has enhanced bioengineering in the contemporary world, the novel astounds the reader. These include the unforgettable vision and ethical issues the author raised more than a century before the modern technology error (Haynes 32).

The novel depicts the nature of humanity and warns the danger and undesired impacts of scientific development if related practices are not put under moral and ethical checks. The idea that comes out of this context is that science continues to reject religious notions and the presence of God. Although they ignore the idea of having God as the creator and controller of nature, scientists have taken the creator’s position, but they end up giving the disastrous results (Solbes and Traver par. 1).

Therefore, the author constantly asks and attempts answers the questions of what makes humans and separates them from beasts. Through the character of Prendick, the author refers to the Beast Men as caricatures who ridicule the natural humanity. No matter how much they are modified, they will still remain animals although lesser creatures (Kaye 410).

The use of a surgical procedure known as vivisection to modify the animals into human beings is a mockery of humanity and nature. Although it is possible to change animals into human using cosmetics, the kind of life they lead would be full of fantasy. The resultant humans have uncontrollable features and urge for different things. The depreciating remarks of Prendick about the Beast Men show that being a human is more than mere aesthetics. The idea of humanity represents deeper metaphysical facets, which distinguish men from beasts (Haynes 36). The idea of the author might be viewed as a critique of the evolution theory.

The concept of Charles Darwin about the evolution and development of human had already begun during the time when the author wrote this novel. The theory developed by Darwin tried to challenge the obscure divide between the human and the beast. It suggests that humans were mere products of outstandingly well-evolved animals with supreme adaptability to nature and artificial environments. As a critique of this idea, the author attempts to promote the position of humanity as the supreme result of creation. If the idea of evolution would stand, the surgical procedures performed on the animals to create humans would be successful (Kaye 411).

An interesting idea singled out as a redeeming factor by the author is the obvious humility resulting from the irresistible identification of insufficiency and flaws in the Beast Men. The creatures understand the wide differences between them and ideal humans. They are also aware that the characteristic gaps are not easy to fill. Consequently, the Beast Men are self-modest, miserable and with unpleasant smell.

Therefore, the most important theme in this novel is caution and care with the scientific advancement (Haynes 38). Any innovation in the field of science should not be executed without considering appropriate moral and ethical guidelines (Solbes and Traver par. 3). Even though the actions of Dr. Moreau are cruel and unbearable, the author has created sophisticated antagonist. The accounts of the novel are based on scientific elements augmented by curiosity.

In the novel, the author portrays science and scientific aspects as the imperialists that tend to supersede the human nature. For instance, Dr. Moreau conducts experiments on the animals without compassion or consideration of human values. His inhuman approach to scientific objectivity is within the rational limit (Haynes 39). However, the audience is pressed to point out the lack of humanity.

As a person reads the novel, one realizes that the actions are impure scientific. The opposite of this statement also seems to be true. The impulsion of creating life does not result from the irresistible urge to develop the course of modern medicine and scientific development (Solbes and Traver par. 5). Therefore, the author’s motivation goes beyond the mere desire of conflicting pain on animals to create human beings.

Lack of moral and ethical obligations promotes abusive acts against humans’ sensibility with the promises of comfort, easy life, perfection, and wealth. As a result, science is used as a tool to achieve these desires. It does not matter the kind of procedures performed. What matters is the resultant success of the procedure, although it might be inadequate. The imperialistic nature of scientific development undermines the development of human nature through the natural processes (Haynes 40). The imperialists always tend to divert the normal courses in order to conform to their desired ways.

The novel was written when scholars and scientists had raised serious concerns regarding the divine authority of God and the biblical theory of creation. During the time, Charles Darwin was developing the evolution theory in which he posited that human beings evolved from simple creatures. However, he could not prove several things about the concept, although it became one of the most popular theories. If evolution theory was justifiable, then scientific approaches could be used to facilitate the process of evolution (Solbes and Traver par. 12).

However, the results of vivisection conducted by Dr. Moreau exhibited the dangers of performing surgical procedures without ethical considerations. Through the light of Prendick, Wells demonstrates the mind of scientists who are determined to achieve the desired results irrespective of what transpires. That is the way imperialists behave as they try to control others for their personal gains. Through the accounts developed in the novel, Wells has successfully rejected the idea of human evolution and the power of science to control the nature (Kaye 413).

Works Cited

Haynes, Roslynn. “Whatever Happened to the ‘mad, Bad Scientist? Overturning the Stereotype.” Public Understanding of Science 25.1 (2014): 31-44. Web.

Humphries, Simon. “Christina Rossetti’s Tennysonianism.” The Cambridge Quarterly 44.1 (2015): 43-61. Print.

Kaye, Richard. “Beastliness at the Fin de Siècle.” English Literature in Transition 59.3 (2016): 409-413. Web.

Montello, Martha. “The Fiction of Bioethics: Cases as Literary Texts (review).” Literature and Medicine 19.2 (2000): 280-284. Print.

Russell, Sanford. “How to Exist Where You Are: A Lesson in Lotos-Eating.” Victorian Poetry 53.4 (2015): 375-399. Print.

Solbes, Jordi, and Manel Traver. Science, Scientists and Literature: The Role of Literature in Promoting Science and Technology. 2002. Web.

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IvyPanda. 2020. "Victorian Literature: Alfred Tennyson and Herbert Wells." September 29, 2020. https://ivypanda.com/essays/victorian-literature-alfred-tennyson-and-herbert-wells/.


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