Write about Auden’s narrative methods in ‘1st September 1939’? Essay
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Auden uses the poem ‘1st September 1939’ to write a sort’ve farewell to the bright and prospering 1930’s and to greet the social and psychological affects that war brings. Auden uses this poem to express the desire for ‘universal love’ but wants the USA and neighbouring countries to wake up and do something constructive against the dominance of Nazi Germany We can infer from the poem, that Auden is the source of the material in the poem. Therefore we can denounce that the poem is written in first person from the perspective of Auden.
This enables Auden to directly address the audience so that he can engage and involve them. This therefore means that there are no official characters announced within the poem. However, during the course of the poem Auden utilises a very plain as well as neutral tone one similar to that of a news reporter, reflecting on the current events. Due to the fact, he possesses an unbiased opinion on the occurrences of war; this could suggest that he is the voice of the people.
This is emphasised through the phrase ‘ uncertain and afraid’ which shows Auden’s uncertainty towards the consequences of war as well as the distrust in society to conquer the threat that war brings. Furthermore, the diction he uses to emphasise his feelings such as ‘anger and fear’ or ‘obsessing our private lives’ is ones, which are emotional, and ones that the audience can relate to at the outbreak of war. This promotes the idea that Auden is the voice of reason. From the poem, we can see that Auden changes the setting constantly throughout the poem.
There are many setting transitions because Auden seeks the causes of the present condition of war, by looking at other historical scenarios where he feels the human race should’ve learnt from. However as the events of war have forecast over America and Europe he feels looking back into history for resolutions will help the human race act better and more affectively in the future. However, initially in stanza 1 Auden suggests the original setting for his thoughts to be expressed, is in ‘a dive’ a cheap, sleazy bar which is slightly Americanised on ‘Fifty-Second Street’ that is located in New York.
This street is also associated with homosexuality that is somewhat ironic as anecdotes suggested he was at the time as well. This idea of setting suggests he is located in a place of comfort and is not subdued to any denigration. However, there is quick and clear transition all of a sudden as the certitude of Fifty-second Street is removed from society due to the significance and dominance of the evil figure Hitler has emerged. Due to this the setting transitions to the birthplace of Hitler i. e.
Linz which allows for a more negative and anxious tone to be created. The fast alteration of scenery between stanzas of similar historical events allows the audience to see the vastness of problems the human race has faced previously to show how we never learn from our mistakes. Auden uses no clear structure in his poem to bring across his opinions and points. When we look at the rhythm and the rhyme, which is the present in the poem, one can come to the conclusion there is no trend or pattern involved.
This is much the same with Auden’s work especially in the poem Miss Gee. The instability of the rhyming in the poem could suggest the vulnerability of countries that were affected during the war. The only clear structure and uniformity of the poem, which is shown, is presented through the 11 line stanzas. This could symbolise Auden’s consistence and confidence with his perspectives on war and strongly believes in the idea that ‘we must love one another or die’ I order to stop the corruption of humanity.
Moreover, the poem does show a certain chronological order for the events. This is shown as after the first stanza the events follow from past, present to future tense. After the present beginning, the structure of the following two stanzas is ones, which are reflective of historical events. For example, a reflection on the ‘psychopathic god’ of Hitler a comparence to his mental instability of his actions as well reference to ‘exiled Thucydides’ a roman historian who commented on the battles between the democrats and dictators.
Afterwards there is a clear transition to the present tense with ‘ dense commuters come, repeating their morning vow’ which gives a strong sense of repetition in the mechanical existence of the human race under the influence of war. This emerges into a future voice of Auden ‘ show an affirming flame’ i. e. , make a strong symbol for change in the future tense. The title ‘1st September 1939’ is a reference to the beginning of WW2 when Germany first invaded Poland.
Through the course of the poem, it is evident that there is a real condemnation of the Nazi’s especially Hitler who has ‘driven a culture mad’ with his political status and dictatorship in Germany. The idea that he drives a society insane emphasises that the people cannot retaliate and are held in hostage, enclosed in a prison. In addition, Auden criticises the present day dictatorships, suggesting it is ‘elderly rubbish’ or nonsense that they talk in their speeches to their nations i. e. that their promises to improve society mean nothing.
Furthermore, Auden uses Americanisms i.e. ‘blind skyscrapers’ to emphasise the fact that America is remaining neutral in the times of war, turning a blind eye to the desperation and struggle happening in Europe. This idea is expressed again through ‘euphoric dream’ which is an emphasis of the fact that America seem to be drugged as they are avoiding war altogether, which is dissimilar to America’s theory of confrontation. However, Auden seems to utilise a negative and haunting tone through the stanzas, criticising war and the destruction it brings and suggesting it is a lot easier to evade war than start it.
He uses the idea that commuters have to ‘cling’ onto their jobs and their everyday lives, as economically and socially people become unstable with war. This contrasts with the notion that commuters have to ‘repeat their morning vow’ as a compulsory order to humanity, oblivious to the detrimental affects of war. The idea Auden is trying to represent is America believes turning a blind eye to war and being in ‘neutral air’ is the best way to act. However, Auden believes that showing an ‘affirming flame’ and having ‘universal love’ will stop the future occurrences of war.