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D. H. Lawrence

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What themes are present in D.H. Lawrence's poem "Conceit"?

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The main theme of this poem is identified by its title: conceit. Lawrence states that it is human conceit that "makes us cowards instead of gods," and suggests that, indeed, we have been falsely encouraged to strive towards arrogance and self-absorption by the command "Know thy self, and that thou art mortal." This pursuit of self-knowledge, according to Lawrence, has become our hamartia, our fatal flaw, leaving us "entangled in the . . . coils of our conceit." The imagery suggests that conceit is literally, as well as figuratively, holding us back as a species.

As an alternative to this entanglement, Lawrence suggests, "I only entangle myself in the knowing." The right kind of self-knowledge, then—independent pursuit of "the knowing"—is introduced as a second theme. Lawrence uses repetition to underline the importance of this concept: "Now let me by myself" is repeated three times in an example of parallelism. In truly being himself, rather than struggling for self-knowledge which amounts to "conceit," the speaker believes he can "be one of the gods."

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The poem "Conceit" contains several themes including arrogance, self-worth, and personal action.

Lawrence attacks the idea of societal arrogance and conceit in the poem.  He states it is our conceit that inhibits us from being gods.  It is the characteristic that ironically keeps us mortal.  He remarks our images of ourselves have created an environment where we cannot be free to act as our individuality demands.

In the third stanza, Lawrence remarks on the ability to truly know yourself.  He claims you can only know about yourself.  The theme of self-worth begins to appear.  The poem suggests a person can know what they want to do in life, but never understand why they want to do it.  Lawrence states it is not important to know why and it only leads to conceit.

The last stanza introduces the theme of personal action.  The poet wants to be himself.  It is a command and a request of the society.  The implication is that being himself will allow him to become a god because he will not be burdened with over-thinking existence.

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