Whether Tennyson’s women are more engaging than his men relies on personal preference. The stories and background behind each female or male character differs in each poem. As the female and male characters vary throughout Tennyson’s collection of poems, it is difficult to justify whether women as a collection are more engaging since different characters contribute different levels of interest. To some extent I agree that Tennyson’s women are more engaging then his men.
The female character of Marianna is particularly captivating and Tennyson uses different devices to entice the reader into the poem. The psychological landscape mirrors Marianna’s psychological decay as she awaits her lover. This is shown through images of deterioration of the physical environment, however as time progresses Marianna is stuck inside this separate sphere where her psychological state is immobile but her physical wellbeing is ageing. ‘…Weeded and worn the ancient thatch upon the lonely moated grange. This makes the reader feel inquisitive about Marianna and her dreaminess state.
The use of imagery heightens the effect of the language and enthralls the reader to such an extent that they must continue reading the poem. In comparison to Sir Lancelot in the Lady of Shalott, his brief interlude in the poem to remark on the Lady of Shalott’s appearance makes him appear callous and egotistic. In contrast Marianna appears more engaging then Sir Lancelot because she represented as mysterious and enigmatic character, while Sir Lancelot lacks personality and individuality.
Tennyson makes Sir Lancelot originally appear heroic and noble through the use of a simile. ‘Hung in the golden Galaxy. The bridle bells rang merrily, as he rode down from Camelot. ’ This engrosses the reader and makes them feel as if Sir Lancelot has a significant purpose in the poem since his appearance is likened to royalty, however as the poem progresses his only role given by Tennyson is to remark on the look of the Lady Shalott’s corpse.
Despite there being reason to suggest that Tennyson’s women are more engaging than his men, there is evidence to indicate that they are of equal standing. Tennyson uses elements of the solar system in Marianna and in the Lady of Shalott. In Marianna the image of the moon is used to demonstrate Marianna’s loss of power over life. It controls the direction of the shadows, which remind her of her lover, just like circumstances have prevented him from returning to her. This makes the reader become frustrated at her refusal to seize power over life and become very much engaged.
However, Tennyson uses the sun to show Lancelot’s importance and makes the two seem joined in unity as he rides along Camelot. ‘The sun came dazzling thro’ the leaves and flam’d upon the brazen grazen greaves Of bold Sir Lancelot. ’ This makes the reader become instantly absorbed in his presence just like the Lady of Shalott and wonder at his existence. Tennyson allows the women and men in the Lady of Shalott and Marianna to engage the readers equally using the moon and the sun because they are symbols of life. Without one or the other, life would not be possible.
The moon is a symbol of night and how Marianna’s life is ruled by bleakness, whereas the sun is a symbol of the day and how Sir Lancelot brings the possibility of light and glory. Despite this, there is a point to which I do not agree that Tennyson’s women are more engaging than his men. In Morte D’Arthur Christian imagery is used to describe the impact Arthur had upon the land. The Round Table and the knights represent Christianity and its disciples. ‘But now the whole round table is dissolved Which was an image of the mighty world’.
This shows the reader just how important Arthur is and the significance of his death. The reader becomes heavily engaged because they become interested how his life resembles religion. In comparison the Lady of Shalott’s death is dramatic, as pathetic fallacy is used to demonstrate her retaliation against her life within the tower. ‘In the stormy east-wind straining, the pale yellow woods were waning’ this emphasises her daringness and engages the reader, as the whole world seems to be following her. But in contrast, the response to each death is different…