John Crowe Ransom American Literature Analysis
Ransom is best known for the persona, or mask, he establishes in his poems: a courtly, somewhat old-fashioned gentleman, viewing the world with ironic detachment. He accepts the inextricable mix of death and life in human existence. His poetic stance is always aloof. For example, in “Dead Boy” (1927), the persona is almost an outsider, part of “the world of outer dark,” but refers to the boy as “the little cousin,” establishing both kinship with the family and distance from the boy himself and emphasizing the dual perspectives of family and community.
An underlying theme is the disparity between human desires and human destinies. The young girl of “Piazza Piece” (1924) dreams of a fairy-tale lover, but the gray old man is her future. “Blue Girls” (1924) stroll happily, chattering like birds, but Ransom’s persona warns that soon their beauty will fade. Even children are not exempt; for Janet (“Janet Waking,” 1927) a seemingly normal morning holds the lesson that death is an essential part of human experience. “Dead Boy” concludes with unsatisfactory attempts to explain his death, but the speaker turns to one incontrovertible fact: Vitality and an essential life force have been removed from the family tree’s “sapless limbs,” leaving them “shorn and shaken.”
Amid constant mutability, one’s only defense is the sustaining force of sensibility, yet sensibility seems besieged in a world that prefers...
(The entire section is 2909 words.)
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