Exploration of Self in Matthew Arnold's The Buried Life Essay

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Exploration of Self in Matthew Arnold's The Buried Life

One of the modes of poetry theme and content was that of psychological exploration of self, as characterized by the poem "The Buried Life" by Matthew Arnold. Class structure and gender roles were vividly looked at in depth, "definitions of masculinity and femininity were earnestly contested throughout the period, with increasing sharp assaults on traditional roles..." (Longman, p. 1888). What it was to be a man (or woman) was frequently in question, and much of Victorian poetry addressed this.

Arnold felt that, "literature must directly address the moral needs of readers." (Longman, p. 2017) He felt a need to instruct and educate society to a fuller understanding of its
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is even love too weak/ to unlock the heart, and let it speak?" (12-13) and "Their thoughts, for fear that if revealed/ they would by other men be met/ with blank indifference, or with blame reproved." (17-19) He notes that even though men cannot voice their thoughts and emotions, that "the same heart bets in every human breast!" (23)

The conflict between man and society's ideology is seen further, "Ah! well for us, if even we/ even for a moment, can get free/ our heart, and hour our lips unchained/ for that which seals them hath been deep-ordained!" (26-29) Deep ordained here connotatively means that with society has deemed acceptable, which may not often coincide with what is really felt. Along these lines of social repression of true self unless in acceptable manner, that society felt a person should be molded into an acceptable framework, "And well-nigh change his own identity/ that it might keep from his capricious play/ his genuine self, and force him to obey," (34-36) and "the unregarded river of our life/ pursue with indiscernible flow its way/ and that we should not see/ the buried stream." (39-42) These last few lines imply the inner self, in which society has no use for, which continues on its way, even though hidden, throughout eternity.

The fact that even though repressed, the inner self will eventually stir something in the person, always seeking to come out of its shell. "There rises an unspeakable desire...a thirst to spend our fire and
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