W.H. Auden Aspects of Narrative – 1st September 1939 Essay
W.H. Auden Aspects of Narrative – 1st September 1939
The poem 1st September 1939 gives Auden’s point of view on the outbreak of war. It is written in the form of 9, 11 line stanzas and uses a variety of imagery to express various opinions of Auden on the various attitudes and possible emotions that people might’ve felt during this time of war. An aspect of narrative which Auden uses effectively in this poem is scenes and places. A significant scene which Auden uses in the fourth stanza of the poem, refers to the New York skyline as a place ‘where blind skyscrapers use their full height to show the strength of collective man’.
In this case Auden personifies the skyscrapers by referring to them as something blind. He also gives them human attributes by stating that they ‘use their full height’. This is significant to the rest of the poem as this contradicts Auden’s opinions on America’s passivity over the outbreak of war. Another aspect of narrative which Auden uses is time and sequence. The use of ‘1st’ in the title of the poem foreshadows events that are likely to happen later on.
This is because 1st signifies the beginning of something which implies that this outbreak is not short-term. There is also a use of allegory in the sense that the 1st signifies a great beginning of something that would later affect everyone. The use of enjambment in this poem also shows that what has begun is likely to continue. This is backed up by the text, when the author says ‘Faces along the bar cling to their average day’. This suggests that they’re trying as hard as possible to carry on as usual although, the Americans were inevitably affected.
Auden also uses the AON character. Auden uses allusion to make references to various significant figures. For example ‘Thucydides and Diaghilev’ are alluded to make important points about evil, dictatorship and a human need for love. This is significant to the rest of the poem as it creates a clearer image of Auden’s opinions that most of the things that were happening were a result of human nature. Auden also uses the AONs voices and point of view in this poem.
In this particular poem, Auden’s voice is dominant and this is done through the use of 1st person narrative. The opening line of the poem asserts this as Auden says, ‘I sit in on of the dives on fifty-second street’. He uses allegory in the 1st 6 stanzas to compare the past and the present then from the 7th stanza he comes back to the present and refers to everyone collectively. He says they are ‘repeating the morning vow’. This use of metaphor shows the cliche in society which commuters represent.
At the end of the poem he relieves himself of any responsibility which he may have assumed with regard to the mentioned matters. This is done when he says ‘all I have is a voice’. This poem is generally based on Auden’s point of view. He uses an analogy which implies that we are all ‘defenseless under the night’. This gives the impression that there’s a darkness out there. This links back to the idea that the ongoing events in the poem are natural. Destination is another important AON which Auden uses.
The poem begins with uncertainty and fear and although the narrator states in the beginning that people might be turning a blind eye to the events unfold that ‘of Eros and dust’, they can still ‘show an affirming flame’. This use of symbolism shows that although there’s darkness across the world but there is also light. This juxtaposes what had been said previously about being defenseless under the night. This is significant to the poem because it gives the reader the impression that there’s still hope despite the current tragic events that were unfolding.
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 1 August 2017
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