Looking for the Light of Moneta

 

Upon entering the main room of the Parthenon, visitors are immediately presented with an enormous and captivating sculpture of Athena. She stands tall, and proud, glowing in the rays of the afternoon sun, both beautiful and intimidating to look at. These feelings, experienced upon the first viewing of such a magnificent statue, must have mirrored the feelings of the narrator while he is conversing with Moneta. I find there to be a pressing difference in the feelings of the narrator and the feelings of visitors to Athena in the Parthenon in that Athena has dozens of visitors viewing her simultaneously during the day, while the narrator experienced the wonderful and terrifying presence of Moneta while he was completely alone, as if in darkness. He questions Moneta about the fact that there are not other men there, and she replies:

“They whom thou spak’st of are no vision’ries’,

Rejoined that voice, “They are no dreamers weak…

They come not here , they have no thought to come –

And thou art here, for thou art less than they.”

Consider the awe ¬†inspired by Athena’s statue, coupled with fear and a sense of complete aloneness. Then add to that the element of communication, and through this communication, insult. Moneta is slighting the narrator, calling him weak, and a lesser being than his fellow men – and yet, he is the only one standing on the threshold of the temple. Moneta is pointing out the plight of the poet, the dreamer, the nonconformist, in that they are undervalued members of society, valued as less than other members. Why would Keats present his narrator in such a light? Why make him unimportant in the world, and why does Moneta express this explicitly?

Moneta’s voice is scary and intimidating, but enchanting all the same; it holds mystery, power, and allure just as the statue of Athena does. In this image in particular, Athena is glowing, lighting up the center of the image, while the sides fade into darkness. The sides of the frame seem unimportant, and are overlooked, less valuable than the shining image in the middle. This mirrors Keat’s portrayal of the narrator and Moneta’s voice. Her voice is the most powerful thing in the poem, demanding the narrator’s attention and highlighting the assumed position he hold in society. Though it seems like this lower position is an insult, it is in fact a sort of gift. No other men, though they are more valued, had the ability of the dreamer to be a visionary, and embrace the light that led him to Moneta’s temple. The other men are the majority, the darker outer edges of the frame, like the two people in the bottom right of the picture. They have their heads tilted, looking down, rather than up at the beauty and shining light above them. They do not see the glory that the dreamer experiences, instead choosing to stay a member of the darkened masses. Only those subjugated as being “less” have the opportunity to look up, and seek out light, the temple of Moneta.

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~ by mjaka10 on October 22, 2012.

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