“With reference to the three texts you have studied, discuss how individuals are alienated in the urban
In “London”, the institutions of the urban environment are seen to be creating a sense of alienation within the population by causing their extreme poverty. The opening description of “charter’d street” instantly calls to mind private ownership, commerce and laws that repress freedom. This repression is even carried through to the Thames, which should be a free, natural entity. The alliterative phrase “marks of weakness, marks of woe” highlights that the population is a victim of extreme poverty which has left physical scars behind. The anaphora of “every” in the second stanza; and the highly rhythmic, end-stopped rhythm further evokes a sense of a formal society bound by “mind-forg’d manacles”. It is the plight of the “Chimney-sweeper” in the third stanza that emphasizes the culpability of the institutions in the society. In the 18th century, when the poem was written, child labour was prevalent and chimney sweeps were most often boys who were so poor that they had to work in order to survive. Black asserts that their plight “appalls” or indicts the church, and the double entendre of “appalls” reinforces our own shock that this would occur. The metaphor of the “black’ning Church” is also ironic, because it is an image that is generally associated with purity. The role-reversal in that the chimney sweep is the physically black character, but the Church is morally black is also indicative of how the situation in which the poor have been born into is not one of their making, but is instead created by the society in which they live and the institutions which govern it. In this poem, the individuals in this society are alienated by the overwhelming poverty in which they live and the lack of opportunity given them to assist them in climbing out of this. This theme is also present in Stephen Spender’s “An Elementary School Classroom in A Slum”. In this poem, Spender also chooses to focus on the young victims of poverty and again assigns the blame for this situation to the wealthier inhabitants of the urban environment. The simile comparing the children to “rootless weeds” indicates that they are neglected by and do not belong to wider society. The metaphorically “paper-skinned boy” and his compatriot with “twisted bones” are images which are disturbing to imagine in a classroom setting and this juxtaposition emphasizes the very wrongness of their existence in any society. The feelings of alienation felt by the students is evoked by the lines “Shakespeare is wicked” and “the map a bad example”. Both of these sentiments are foreign to the reader, who is integrated into society, but to these children, they are so removed from what these symbols represent that they are damaging and destructive. Spender asserts that the “donations” from wealthier patrons of the school are simply “tempting them to steal”, because there is no opportunity for them to attain these ideals otherwise. However, this will further alienate the children
again. In this urban landscape. The inhabitants of the city are shown to be shocked by this. “pointing” liken this spectacle to a sideshow seen at a carnival. the man is actually reinforcing his “dignity” and in “weeping like a man” he is asserting the glory of human emotion.from society by making them not only poor. even “new-born” age. However. the people who are staring at the man think that by weeping he has given up his right to act with dignity and therefore it is acceptable to stare at him. Despite all the previous images of poverty and deprivation that the poet has seen. The crowds that “come hurrying”. In this poem. in the utter normalcy of what the man has done lies its impact. The “Infant” to her. the reaction to the man who dares to express his emotion shows how foreign this idea is to modern residents of cities. In this poem. This initial alienation is simply compounded by the contrast between the “sun and love” available to the upper classes. The imagery of “traffic banked up in George Street” give the reader an image of a city that stands still at the shocking sight of a man “weeping”. in itself an emotional expression. a supernatural influence that explains the surprising sanctity of this action. She is forced by limited opportunity and poverty to turn to a job that allows men to exploit her and which is neither financially secure nor safe. The “Harlot” herself is nothing more than another young victim of society. However. In allowing free reign to his emotion. Emotional alienation is also prevalent in the urban environment. His actions are not described as very grand. The “youthful Harlot” who “curses” her baby is an example of how the pressures of survival can blot out the natural instincts of humans to love and care for their children. the populace is taught that. showing it is not an isolated phenomenon. It seems unnatural for a mother not to want to love her child and this highlights how unnatural this society is. as the pace and strictures of life often do not allow for the free expression of emotion. they picture a “halo of force”. he is “simply” weeping. the children are alienated from the greater society by their poverty and the lack of opportunity for improvement or progress. unguarded emotion and thus are shocked. This lack of care or love for the “tear” of the infant. the shock created by the weeping man indicates how individuals in the urban environment have become conditioned against the display of deep. those around him recieve the “gift of weeping” and become “believers”. Practical considerations of survival mean that she is not allowed to love the child whom she has borne but instead she “curses” it. is simply an unwanted consequence of this job and is also a liability and an extra mouth to feed. the one he sees “but most” is this disturbing image of a woman cursing her young child. this is not the case. it is a harsh sound that mimics the harshness of her action. This emotional alienation is also present in “London”. the lack of emotional closeness is seen to be a thing of necessity and causes alienation
. as the repeated phrase “dignity of weeping” asserts. In Les Murray’s “An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow”. but criminals who have violated the societal code. further reinforces the idea that emotion is not wanted in this society and that from an early. But the reactions of those around him show the true impact that unguarded emotion has. The sibilance of “curses” is very evocative for the reader.
This term for a pile of industrial refuse is inextricably linked with the Industrial Revolution. It is also a representation of the greater emotional alienation present in all levels of society. The lack of nature in the urban environment is a metaphor for the lack of opportunity available and Spender uses the visual setting of an urban jungle to explain that the isolation felt by the children is as much from living in a hopeless place as from being in a hopeless situation. Spender expresses hope that the children could break out of poverty through the help of a proper education and proper patrons. Spender compares their “windows” to the “belled. The “gold sands” and “green fields” are a stark contrast to the repetitive “fog to endless night” that the children previously lived in. However. in the last stanza of the poem. the place into which the children will go is described as a naturalistic utopia. The metaphorically rancid and spoiled nature of their environment evokes a sense that they are living in a rubbish heap.between mother and child. which brought about the growth of the urban environment. This impression is further evoked with the metaphor of a “slag heap”. In “An Elementary School Classroom in A Slum” Spender explores the relationship between the urban environment and the beauty of nature. Tyrolese valley” shown them in the classroom and says this negative comparison only increases the sense of isolation they feel by living in a “narrow street sealed in with a lead sky”. The urban landscape can be a place where the lack of beauty and nature can create a sense of alienation and hopelessness in it’s population. flowery. The children are said to learn in a classroom with “sour cream walls”. Here. but also brought about the growth of slum environments such as the one in which the children live.