The Thorn - Wordsworth

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  • Created by: Shelley
  • Created on: 20-05-13 16:28

Wordsworth aims to seek the supernatural forces within normal human reality. As we know, the speaker from the very beginning is superstitious and prone to otherworldly belief that other forces outside of nature are at work. He believes in ghosts and thinks that the area surrounding the child's grave must be haunted "voices of the dead" as the pond appears never to dry up despite the sun shining down on it. He also thinks that the grass shaking is down to malignant forces and sees the area as unholy or evil (when in fact it could be nature protecting the baby and making sure it stays where it belongs- as part of nature). "the grass...shook upon the ground".

The supernatural presence in this poem is in the speaker's mind and so adds to his clear unreliability. Wordsworth's own search for the supernatural in the natural seems to be within the speaker's own superstitions e.g. the ghost reflection of the child in the pond that never dries and that the thorn and nature appear eager to attack (or alternatively protect). The narrative reveals more about the speaker than the actual character, Martha Ray, and so may be a poem targeted at revealing human nature and the need for tragedy and gossip/hearsay. The speaker pieces together a story that is based more on myth, superstition and hearsat than on actual evidence and reality- emulating the true essence of what rumours are (usually favouring the negative interpretation of the gossip i.e. that Martha did kill her baby) - the need of scandal?

Wordsworth is exploring the isolated character/solitary figure- Martha has no connections to others and has been abandoned and ostracised- she does not utter much except for the constant cry of "Oh woe is me! Oh misery!" which is not directed to anyone. She is detached from everyone (except from her lost baby and nature), in some instances it appears her and nature are as one e.g. use of the pathetic fallacy- the weather reflects her emotions "twas mist and rain".

The begins on the strange image of the thorn as "as mass of knotted joints". As is typical of the poems in 'Lyrical Ballads', a lot of time is spent describing the unexceptional, this ordinary and ugly thorn. The language is often stark and basic e.g. "so old". This is very far removed from the poetic diction of the day (hence why this collection was revolutionary). Unlike a typical ballad, a clear moral and lesson is not reached at the poem's end. The narrator merely seems to inform the reader, leaving them to draw their own conclusion, by admitting his…


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