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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Structural unity in tennyson's idylls of the king Harrs, Reynold August

Abstract

This thesis, which is a close textual analysis of Tennyson's The Idylls of the King, attempts to explicate the poem in terms of Arthur's Vow. The Vow is seen as the thematic and structural centre of the poem. Accordingly, the thesis falls into two sections. The first is concerned with a discussion of the themes found in the Idylls and how they relate to the Vow; the second is concerned with the structural unity of the poem in terms of its imagery, mood and motifs. The thesis attempts to explain why in a world characterized by the eternal conflict between good and evil, between man and nature, it is necessary for the knights to obey Arthur's Vow. The knights and ladies are then discussed, in particular their failure to obey the Vow, and the consequences of their failure. Since the adultery between Lancelot and Guinevere is at the heart of the dissolution of the Round Table, and is never described explicitly, an attempt is made to interpret their relationship in terms of disobedience to the Vow. The thesis also examines the ways in which Tennyson gives unity to what appears to be a collection of independent poems. Unity, in particular in mood, is supplied by the poet's moralistic voice as well as by the use of lyrics. Imagistic and verbal motifs are traced through, the poem, and are shown to have a cumulative effect corresponding to the narrative climax. Finally, the use of nature imagery is shown to emphasize the struggle between man and nature as well as to sharpen the contrast between the civilization of Camelot and the ever-constant threat of anarchic nature, which threatens to erupt once the knights fail to obey the Vow.

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