How would I discuss the treatment of faith and loss in Milton’s Sonnets XV and XVI, Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’ and James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’, while exploring how their forms...

How would I discuss the treatment of faith and loss in Milton’s Sonnets XV and XVI, Matthew Arnold’s ‘Dover Beach’ and James Joyce’s ‘The Dead’, while exploring how their forms function to convey mood and idea?

Hi! I have final exams next week and today I got some potential questions / tasks that might show up. And this was one of them! I know that if i get something similar to this, I'm going to fail. So I'm wondering if you could give me some advice on how I can answer this? I find the last part of the task the most difficult.

Expert Answers
Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lets look at how form is instrumental to imparting mood and idea in a work: convey: to communicate (a message, information, etc); to communicate; impart; make known (Collins and Random House Dictionaries).

The form of short stories convey suspense, intensity in description and surprises or shocks or paradoxes. "The Dead" is a short story. Thus by it's form (single conflict and idea developed, surprise ending or shocking or paradoxical, suspenseful), you know that the mood will accord with these definitive structural parameters. Of course you will still have to read the text to know the mood specifically (humorously suspenseful, reminiscently shocking, pleasant though surprising) but you can discern more about the mood by seeing how the form develops adds to, imparts and conveys the mood.

The form of novels convey varying moods as they moves from chapter to chapter and from situation to situation. Yet there is generally an overriding mood that is conveyed, imparted, developed in the opening chapter through setting, tone, characterization and plot exposition. Thus the form of the novel conveys the mood through elements that comprise the novel structure.

Looking at poems, it is a little easier to see how poetic form conveys mood. Take for example sonnets' form. There are three dominant forms: Shakespearean (English), Spenserian, and Petrarchan. The Petrarchan form of octet followed by sestet allows for developing a narrative that has a paradoxical turn in its conclusion and an unexpected resolution: abbaabba cddcdc.

Spenserian form, with concatenation of rhyme scheme, allows for the continuation of a logical flow of thought or narrative that poses a single problem that receives a paradoxical resolution in the end couplet: ababbcbccdcd ee. Shakespearean form of three quatrains and an ending couplet allows for comparisons between opposing ideas (as opposed to the continuation of an idea) and the presentation of a problem that receives a paradoxical resolution, as does the Spenserian form, in the ending couplet: abab cdcd efef gg.

In short, sonnet form allows the poet to choose between (1) a mood that changes within the sonnet and presents a paradoxical problem; (2) a mood that carries through to the couplet and that expresses the logical development of one feeling and idea; (3) a mood that changes twice during comparison of different aspects of the problem, then presents a paradoxical resolution in the couplet, perhaps also introducing another mood.

concatenation: the linking of rhymes between rhyme patterns: ababbcbccdcd ee, the bb at lines 4 and 5 and the cc at lines 8 and 9 present concatenation (linking) of the rhyme to facilitate linking of the idea.

paradoxical: something that seems obviously untrue but that expresses truth regardless of appearances.

These are some of the concepts and ways of analyzing that you would apply to Milton or Arnold or Joyce to determine how form conveys mood and ideas.

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The Dead

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