Examine the function of objects in ‘The Moose’ and ‘The Hanging Girl’, not as symbols but as objective correlatives

. Elliot's argument is that emotions in literary works must be supported by the conjunction of external factors and evidence, removing the author's presence which usually links a character to the text. When texts are studied with this in mind it changes the way in which simple objects are accepted, causing them to be scrutinized in greater depth to the find hidden or implied symbolism the author intended. This can be seen in such poems as The Moose by Elizabeth Bishop. It is not only in poetry which this technique appears but in all texts. Ali Smith illustrates this in her short story The Hanging Girl. The exploration of these texts will allow further insight into the varied use and purpose of objective correlatives. One of the most prominent uses of objective correlatives in the Moose is to slow the entire scene down and convey the complete boredom of the speaker as the bus winds repetitively along its seemingly never-ending journey. The bus is not introduced until the fifth stanza, indicating the meandering nature of the journey. The use of enjambment also shows this, and how each succinct and individual event of life runs into the next, eternally linked, and as equally never-ending as the bus journey. It is from here that it can be said that the bus itself is symbolic of life, and its passengers, old and young, all experience the same lethargic waves of repetition. The extended use of the sea ("long tides", "the bay leaves the sea", "the sun sets facing a red sea") builds up this idea of the repetitive rituals of everyday life, concentrating the effect of the first part of the poem on the reader's own sense of boredom with life. Thus when the moose appears at the end, shock, hope and relief flood the reader's emotional centre. Nature is used throughout the poem, but it is presented in such a way that it contradicts all that nature stands for. The examples used are all of nature where it has been harnessed by humans. For instance the "sweet peas" in the ninth stanza are reliant upon the "their wet white string on the whitewashed fences" for


support. This is an instance of the replacement of nature's independence with an inherent dependence upon man. This can also be seen with the "lupins like apostles", their natural form corrupted by their described worship of human ideals. There is a prominent use of dogs in the poem ("a collie supervises", "a dog gives one bark"). Of all the animals to choose, dogs, commonly known as 'mans best friend', are probably the most domesticated, again alluding to this human control and influence on everything. The bus too, in its lumbering, mechanical form, shows the human influence on life, and if the bus is still viewed as a symbol of the journey of life, then it is in fact a man-made cage in which to travel through life along a man-made road. The use of humanised objects throughout the poem makes the appearance of the untamed moose, completely free from captivity and constraints, all the more serene and god-like. The passengers, and readers, have not experience nature without the affection, or perhaps infection, of humanity for such a time that the shock of this wild beast's appearance is made all the greater by its contrasting source. It is thus the deprival of nature which incites a craving for it, and makes the emotion of the speaker upon seeing the moose connect and reflect in the reader. The moose's appearance at night is also symbolic. The time of day is an important objective correlative in the poem, for it is constantly changing. In many ways this gives an overall sense of nature's presence and power over humanity. But as it slowly subsides into night, from "late afternoon", the speaker focuses on what is happening inside the bus as human influence outside also subsides in the darkness. A broken line beginning with a dash (-) indicates the "jolt" out of their own lives and out of the rituals of the day. The bus must stop, pausing the eternal journey as the master of nature takes control of it. The moose "looms" from the mundane and ordinary, just as it does from the darkness. The rhyme and rhythm of the poem becomes more irregular here, symbolising the shock of the characters as they survey the moose, gobsmacked. Quite clearly the moose is the biggest objective correlative in this poem. Although

the build up of a slow repetitive tone beforehand sets up the atmosphere for the moose's entry and allows for its presence to create a dramatic scene by its contrast to the previous rambling story of the bus journey, it is ultimately the moose which triggers the subdued emotions which are just waiting to overspill. It's effect is enhanced by its seemingly impossible appearance from an "impenetrable wood" and from the darkness. The fantastical moose is made safe to the reader by the comparison to home. In this stanza, the twenty-forth, the middle line "or, safe as houses" is bracketed, protecting it from the world like the moose is. The rhyme of the first and last lines mimics this effect with the whole stanza. These techniques coerce the reader into safety. The effect of the moose is to send the passengers back to their innocent childhoods ("childish, softly"), free from care and worry and human corruption, focused solely on one thing: the moose. It is this feeling which all of the objective correlatives lead to and which is passed to the reader, manifesting as an extreme sense of uplifting freedom and thus joy. In The Hanging Girl, by Ali Smith, objective correlatives are used more immediately. For example in the part where she drops all of her shopping on the pavement at the shock and horror of seeing the ghost hanging herself, Smith describes how a "bottle smashed open" and the water spilled across the pavement. The imagery conjures the idea of blood seeping across the floor which shocks the reader. The oranges too roll away from Pauline and into the road. These also shock the reader, a bright splash of colour against a grey background. The reader is, however, denied an explanation for several paragraphs, allowing the ruin of these simple objects to accumulate and build the sense of shock and disgust until it is finally revealed that the hanging girl was the reason for Pauline's reaction. The synchronised fall of the oranges and the bottle also symbolises Pauline's loss of control of her life. She can no longer grasp onto her possessions and drops everything to save the ghost. From here on the ghost is all she cares for in her life.


In conclusion, objective correlatives appear throughout the texts and are important tools for the writers to create emotions within the reader so that the separate entities which are reader and text become one, allowing the reader to experience the emotions of the characters. These objective correlatives seem to come in two forms; the immediate and the long-term, and both are different yet equally effective. In The Moose, many objects lead up to the main objective correlative, but it is the previous descriptions which cause the final appearance of the moose to have such a great impact. In The Hanging Girl, there is less of a delay between the objective correlatives and the revelation of the "external facts" which lead to the emotion, but the connection is just as clear and it also causes the final release of the emotion to be that much greater. T.S. Eliot's observation does not change the way in which objective correlatives are viewed, but brings our attention to them, so that we know when and how they are acting. His observation brings to light the importance of these objects in writing, and in relating to a text personally and emotionally. AA

Bibliography: A. Smith, Other Stories and Other Stories, The Hanging Girl, (handout from seminar) E. Bishop, The Moose, (handout from seminar)


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