Miss Gee

Revision notes for Auden's "Miss Gee"

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W.H.Auden:
Ao2: Narrative Technique
Ao3: Ideas behind poetry
Ao4: Context:
Miss Gee:
Summary: The story concerns a lonely spinster, who appears to be repressed and
religious. She has dreams about the vicar at her church, but otherwise seems to have
no romance in her life. She visits the doctor and is diagnosed with an "oat cell
carcinoma." She is taken to hospital. Her corpse is dissected.
Form:
A ballad. The ballad form was used for stories that could often be set to music.
Folk songs and poems often employed the form.
It usually features verses of four lines with lines two and four rhyming.
It would be in iambic metre (unstressed/stressed) with four stresses in lines
one and three, and three stresses in lines two and four.
Themes:
The poem deals with loneliness, isolation and the inevitability of death.
It seems to relish telling is unhappy tale.
It may be callous, or it may be about callousness.
Auden claimed that the character was based on a governess who had looked
after him when he was a child.
Style:
It is written in ballad form, which might lead us to expect a rollicking,
adventurous tale.
Of course, what we get is the very opposite.
Its language is plain, conversational and unelaborated.
Links to other poems:
Like most of the poems, it is pessimistic.
It deals with thwarted hopes and the inevitability of death.
It uses the ballad form, as do "As I Walked Out One Evening" and "O What Is
That Sound."
Aspects of Narrative:
It has the most conventional narrative of all the poems in this section.
It creates a character, reveals certain aspects of her life, gives her a problem or
two to deal with, and then finished her off.

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Page 2

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Ao2: Narrative Technique:
Stanza 2:
Suggestive of a diminished view/distorted view of life
Semantics used; unattractive and unappealing. Auden initially makes us look
down on her. Later the reader will feel guilty when she dies.…read more

Page 3

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Stanza 13:
Unnecessarily tautological, shows submission
Darkly comic; tragically comic
Ironic- she already is "a good girl"
Stanza 14:
Life passing her by
Imagery is depressing, she is a wreck
Questionable, manipulating readers response
Repetition
Stanza 15:
Low key, ominous
Stanza 16:
Assonance
Caesura; slows instant rhythm
Build up, serious, suspense
Stanza 17:
Shows her importance
Shocking word used so casually; understated
Stanza 18:
Change of tone, highlights themes of poem; how life is spontaneous
Stanza 20:
Colloquial slang used diminishes the importance of what…read more

Page 4

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Cruelty of students, lack of empathy for others
Change of tone; distances the reader; she is being laughed at by other
characters, we feel guilty for laughing at her
Stanza 23:
Viewed through her illness rather than `being'
Awkward half rhyme; least funniest stanza; highlights ugliness of her life
Stanza 24:
Coldness of 3rd person pronoun highlights lack of individuality in her life
Stanza 25:
Studied rather than valued
Christian do-gooders
Symbol of her subservience; only of interest after she dies
Suggestive of lack of…read more

Page 5

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Restricted; doesn't look outside concitements, people are limited
Stanza 6:
Spectating not living; hoping but unfulfilled
Stanza 19:
Broad generalisation is not true; shows the need to live life to the full
Auden?
No regrets if you've done as you pleased
Ao4: Context:
Stanza 1:
Old fashioned name in even the 1830's (Quasi doggerel)
Stanza 5:
Aloysius was a saint. Died at 23 nursing the sick during a time of pestilence.
Representative of resisting temptations.…read more

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