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Analysis of Auden's The Age of Anxiety

In Auden's lengthy poem, [i:552d3fc93f]The Age of Anxiety[/i:552d3fc93f], he follows the actions and thoughts of four characters who happen to meet in a bar during a war. Their interactions with one another lead them on an imaginary quest in their minds in which they attempt, without success, to discover themselves. The themes and ideas that Auden's [i:552d3fc93f]The Age of Anxiety[/i:552d3fc93f] conveys reflect his belief that man's quest for self-actualization is in vain.

W. H. Auden was born in York, England, in 1907, the third and youngest son of Constance and George Auden (Magill 72). His poetry in the 1930's reflected the world of his era, a world of depression, Fascism, and war. His works adopt a prose of a "clinical diagrostician [sic] anatomizing society" and interpret social and spiritual acts as failures of communication (Magill 74). They also put forth a diagnosis of the industrial English society among economic and moral decay in the 1930's (Magill 72). Conflicts common in his works are those between war and peace, corruption of modern society, and the "dichotomy between the rich and the poor" (Barrows 317).

[i:552d3fc93f]The Age of Anxiety[/i:552d3fc93f] is, in general, a quest poem. Unlike the ideal quest, however, this quest accomplishes nothing. The characters search for the meaning of self and, in essence, the meaning of life, but because their search is triggered by intoxication due to alchohol, the quest is doomed from the start. Throughout the quest, the characters believe themselves to be in a form of Purgatory when they are allegorically in Hell. They fail to realize this due to "the modern human condition which denies possibility but refuses to call it impossible" (Nelson 117).

In [i:552d3fc93f]The Age of Anxiety[/i:552d3fc93f], there are four characters of significance. Quant, the first to be introduced, addresses himself in a mirror, an action typical to a drunken man. He is an aging homosexual widower who finds refuge in the mirror because it offers him the easiest way of facing himself (Nelson 117-118).

Malin, the most dominant character overall, is a medical intelligence officer on leave from the Canadian Air Force. His background labels him as the "would-be doctor and leader" in...

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