An Ideal Thwarted [Revision]

Evadne Zaimi seems to resemble Moneta of Keats’ Fall of Hyperion and the Abyssinian woman of Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, however, it is difficult to connect Evadne to previous females that we have read because she represents an amalgamation of ideals connected to the Greek Past. She is a character rich with symbolism towards the Greek past and other women that we have studied throughout the semester, yet she appears to be the only symbolic woman (of the many) that has a tragic ending.

Evadne is portrayed as an utterly pathetic creature in Shelley’s The Last Man being located in a “dwelling of want” (109) discovered by Raymond (who wishes to return her to her greatness), a contrast to the lavish National Gallery that she has designed. She is teeming with idealized imagery as she is described with “dark hair…braided…in thick knots like the headdress of a Grecian statue” (109) and having a disposition comparable to a “model of grace” (109)–symbols suited to Greek ruins rediscovered. Her description of misery and likeness to that of a Grecian statue recalls Moneta from Keats’ Fall of Hyperion. Moneta is described as a figure of sadness standing about the Greek ruins of Saturn’s temple–”Sole priestess of desolation”–as the poet wanders upon her (a striking similarity). Yet, Moneta at least has a beacon of hope in the form of Hyperion rising in the end of the work–a possibility–but the fragmented nature of the work does not resolve the fate of the goddess of memory.

The Abyssinian woman of another fragment, Coleridge’s Kubla Khan, shares the poetic and creative ideals of Evadne the artist. Evadne continually churns out works of complete beauty yet “faulty” (107) in design, a contrast to the Abyssinian woman’s “symphony and song” that would grant the listener the ability to create the perfect “dome of pleasure” in Kubla Khan. Evadne, the daughter of Greece, rich with ideal description was perfect but is now tarnished by shattered dreams–”behold the proud Evadne in her tatters!…the beggar-princess” (112). Her tragic ending in her failed life and loss of will to continue living separates her from the women we have studied, she approaches perfection but her dreams are never truly realized as evidenced by her tragic state–This is the end of love!–Yet not the end!”–and frenzy lent her strength as she cast her arm up to heaven: “there is the end! we meet again. Many living deaths have I borne for thee, O Raymond, and now I expire, thy victim!” (181). In her death, she becomes a ruin; yet she calls upon a plague to wipe out her former lover in her rage: “Fire, and war, and plague, unite for thy destruction” (181). Evadne’s energy summoning this plague evokes the image of a Greek past, or any romantic ideal, destroying the Romantic hero–in essence, anger from failed ideals.

Evadne’s history and character tie in with the woeful tone of Shelley’s work; that ideals cannot reside in reality. She represents, instead, Shelley’s disenchantment with the Romantic ideal: the revolutionary zeal of change and progress that was present in the contemporaries of her youth is nonexistent here. Essentially, Evadne is symbolic of lost causes, an ideal with high expectations (a Greek princess of a cultured state) but unfortunately fails to realize her dreams and is instead a victim of Love, poverty, and the apparently obsolete ideals of reclaiming a Hellenistic past–a failure that manifests itself in the rage of plague that destroys Romantic heroes.

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~ by frightenedinmate2 on November 15, 2012.

One Response to “An Ideal Thwarted [Revision]”

  1. This post offers a great example of close reading at work! Your analysis has shown that Evadne, when compared to other Romantic female prophetesses, is the crux for Mary Shelley’s satirical critique of high Romantic ideals, the “lost cause” of Philhellenic politics. It is interesting how you describe Evadne as having become a “ruin” herself; not coincidently therefore, Lord Raymond is killed by a falling ruin–ironically, the Hellenic past that he was supposed to be saving from the evil Turks of the Ottoman Empire. This theme of figurative and literal ruination is very prevalent in Keat’s poem as well!

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