Critical Evaluation

The narrator’s concerns in “Locksley Hall” parallel those of his nineteenth century society and evolve as literature did during Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s lifetime. The personal love story at the beginning of the poem echoes the emotional and autobiographical mode of Romanticism, while the economic pressures underlying the speaker’s plight invoke social problems that would become the focus of later realist and naturalist writing.

The Romantic tone of the opening section comes not only from its emphasis on the story of thwarted love but also from its description of nature. Locksley Hall stands near the coast, where the implied danger of ocean waves recalls the Romantic concept of sublime nature. References to birds, symbols exploited by Romantic writers as emblems of joy and freedom, surround the narrator’s early days with Amy. As their love deepens, the narrator likens Amy’s radiant face to the Northern Lights and her sighs to those of the wind. All these references follow the Romantic tradition of invoking imagery that coincides with the emotions of its characters.

The Romantic hero may be in harmony with nature, but he is also traditionally suffering. During the decade prior to the publication of “Locksley Hall,” French novelists defined the frustration of a generation of young men who lacked the opportunities for glory that Napoleon Bonaparte’s conquests had offered when he gained victories abroad for France. Stendhal, in his novel Le Rouge et le noir (1830; The Red and the Black, 1898), and Alfred de Musset, in Confession d’un enfant du siècle (1836;...

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