“Felix Randal” by Gerard Manley Hopkins Literature Analysis
Felix Randal grew up like any other person, normal. Normal in that amongst his peers, he could be loved and cherished, and that he could also grow up to be hated or be hateful. The narrator tells his story and tries to explore and bring out the various facets of the characters life. Felix’s death in comparison to his life was a total contrast. Felix lived a happy and proud lifestyle, powerful and domineering among his age mates (Line 13, “Powerful among the peers”).
In contrast to the life he lived, he died a miserable life. He was bedridden for days before his death, he grew desperate to the point that he clung to the prayers and anointing he had received for solace (line 5 &6.” but mended/being anointed and all”). In the face, all this, was Felix really as bold and domineering as expressed? Or was he just humbled by the experience of the disease that lay him to rest?
Felix Randal, according to the narrator, was a coward. The narrator recaps his journey through life and how the various characters in Felix’s life viewed him as, and what they meant to him. Cowardice, in this case, is highlighted through the expression of his perception of the disease. He was impatient and as a result, ended up cursing the state he was in at first. It took a lot from the people around him to accept the state he was in. The narrator portrays Felix as a burden.
He sighs with relief at the fact that Felix is dead (line 1. “He is dead again? My duty all ended”). He is satirical about the change in the complexion of Felix’s body, and his sarcastic tone brings out the loathing he had towards Felix. The narrator’s choice of words spell out the attitude he had toward Felix; he despised him a great deal. (Stanza 1, lines 2, 3 & 4).
There are various poetic styles and symbols used in the poem. The poem is written from a first-person perspective; the narrator describes the state of Felix at various stages in his life and relates them to his feelings about the situations. The poem has four stanzas, the first three stanzas with four lines each and the last stanza with three lines. It also has a wide array of styles at play. Rhyme has been used in most parts of the poem, in stanzas one and two; regular rhyme is at play.
The last words on the lines in the stanza sound the same towards the end, i.e. ended and contended: Handsome and some: Mended and offended. The words follow a specific pattern and are used to enhance the musicality and flow in the poem. Consonants are also used in the poem. It refers to the use of similar consonants in two or more words that follow each other within a sentence.
This style is evident in line two, ’big-boned: Hardy-handsome: Heavenlier heart: Fatal four. Consonants are used to stress the ideas the persona is trying to pass across to the reader, for instance, heavenlier heart not only brings rhythm but also implies the change in the heart of Felix towards being godliness.
Symbolism, as a style, is being used in the poem. It has been achieved by combining words to hide the meaning of phrases. An example is in line four of the first stanza. “Fatal four disorders, fleshed there, all contended”, this simply meant that the diseases that had attacked him had achieved whatever their intentions- killing him, and hence their contentment. Symbolism is also expressed in the exercise of his anointing. It illustrates that he was affiliated to some religion, hence the belief in some higher power.
There is also the use of rhetorical questions in the poem. These questions need not be answered; in most cases, they invoke in the reader the sense to think beyond the words in the poem. One rhetoric is in the first stanza, the very first line, “O he is dead again?”
This, taken literally cannot happen because a person dies only once if taken idiomatically; it would mean that he was a coward. He feared death, and the more he thought of it, the more he became scared of it. The rhetorical question, in this case, has given the reader the liberty to think about the possibilities and fill the void in the narrators thought.
The tone of the poem is sad, but the narrator has made it sound sarcastic. He has used euphemism in many instances that the real gravity of the situation in the poem is seldom felt. To the reader, Felix’s death was not a loss; the perception created was that he was better off dead, and his death would, therefore, lessen his burden.
The only person that Felix had, who stood with him and took care of him was the narrator. The relationship between the narrator and persona was more of an elder to the junior relationship; this comes out when he addresses Felix as ‘child’, and recaps through his life as a person who has observed Felix at most stages of his life.
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