Who is the focal point in Wordsworth's poem, "A Character?"

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The focal point of Wordworth's "A Character" is the face of an idealized man. Because we know Wordsworth was a nature poet who liked to write about the common people, we can imagine this to be the face an ordinary laboring person Wordsworth might have seen in his isolated home in the Lake District of northern England.

The poet first marvels at the many expressions that cross the man's face. "There's thought and no thought ... paleness and bloom ... bustle and sluggishness ... pleasure and gloom."

At this point, the poet's opinions of this man's face, and by extension the man himself, seem neutral. But by the second stanza, the poet finds goodness and virtue in this face. The poet see this as the face of a man who would accept affliction and pain with peace. In the third stanza, the poet becomes even more enthusiastic. The face  before him is attentive, without ambition, joyful, and mild, proud without being envious. In stanza four, we learn more about the virtues the poet reads in the man's face: he is free and "there's virtue, the title it [the face] surely may claim."

In the final stanza, the poet recognizes that his opinions of this face may be too good to be true: "this picture from nature may seem to depart." Wordsworth indicates that his thoughts are influenced by emotion or sentiment: "the Man at once would run away with your heart." At the end, Wordsworth wishes he could be this simple man, who he calls "a kind happy creature."

This poem expresses the Romantic themes of idealizing and celebrating the common person. It is also written in the kind of simple language important to Romantic poets. While some of the language does not seem simple to us, Wordworth is using plain words like "mild" and "kind" or rhymes like "bloom" and "gloom," and he avoids making allusions to Classical literature or mythology.  

 

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