Saturday, April 27, 2013


[1994] Poems: “To Helen” (Edgar Allan Poe) and “Helen” (H.D.)
Prompt: The following two poems are about Helen of Troy. Renowned in the ancient world for her beauty, Helen was the wife of Menelaus, a Greek King. She was carried off to Troy by the Trojan prince Paris, and her abduction was the immediate cause of the Trojan War. Read the two poems carefully. Considering such elements as speaker, diction, imagery, form, and tone, write a well-organized essay in which you contrast the speakers’ views of Helen.

     Literary elements are key to identifying an author's view of a subject. The most prominent of these elements, diction, imagery, and tone, can be used to compare the work to other works of literature in a cohesive manner. Diction conveys the speaker of the work and in what manner the author wanted the work to be viewed, in what frame of mind the audience should be in. Imagery is a direct communication between author and audience of exactly how the author feels about the subjects of the work, how the author feels about his work. Tone acts much like diction but also has a more persuasive element to it, this is where the author attempts to pass their views onto the audience.
     Diction creates both the speaker of the work and the projects the author's attitude towards the subject. In "To Helen" by Edgar Allan Poe, the diction is reminiscent of old English literature and the nobility of Europe. Words such as "thy" and "yon" makes it seem as if the speaker is a noble gentleman from fifteen hundreds addressing Helen. With references of the "grandeur that was Rome" it would appear that the speaker has a very positive outlook on Helen and therefore Poe has a positive outlook as well. "Helen" by H.D. on the other hand has a very different diction and speaker when it comes to Helen of Troy. H.D. has a more modern wording than Poe, using a less direct method. H.D. creates a speaker that works more as a third-person narrator, pulling away from direct contact with the subject, Helen, of the poem. Instead the speaker is observing Greece as a whole and comments on Helen's affects on it, in this case negative effects. Both speakers appear knowledgeable in ancient history and the legend of Helen of Troy, each holding references to ancient lore. The diction creates speakers that would appear to hold opposite views of Helen of Troy.
     Imagery is a powerful element of literature and is used to directly convey the authors' attitude to their audience. In "To Helen", Poe equates Helen to the beauties of nature, "That gently, o'er a perfumed sea...". Essentially here Poe is telling the audience his views of Helen. It would seem that Poe holds Helen in very high regard with his metaphors and similes being compliments to the beauty of Helen. H.D.'s direct communication with the audience conveys something quite different than Poe's reverence in beauty. H.D. seems cold towards Helen, even maybe to the point of hatred, even suggesting at a point that Helen would have been better off dead. H.D. shows no love for Helen but like Poe she uses imagery to reflect the beauty of Helen as well as her feelings about Helen to the audience.
     Tone represents an author's chance to convince the audience of their view point. The author creates the tone and the audience absorbs it as they read making tone the author's persuasive literary element. For "Helen" the tone is somber, even while describing the beauty of Helen, the tone retains a dark, even resentful, aspect. The tone of "Helen" easily shows no love for Helen, here H.D. is attempting to turn the audience to her view of resentment towards Helen. Similarly Poe uses a positive, awe struck tone to win over his audience. Poe's tone mostly consists of a reverence for the beauty of Helen and little more. The tone was used in similar manners by the authors but to convey two very different views of Helen.
      Authors use many literature elements to convey their views in literature. For Poe he used a praising tone, beauty imagery, and intellectual diction to show his beauty-sruck view of Helen. H.D. used a similar resentful tone, deathly imagery, and modern diction to show her view of a Helen that Greece might have been better off without. The two views of the authors contrast sharply, nearly taking opposite views of Helen of Troy but the way that they conveyed said views were quite similar.

Prompt #2

1974 Poem: “I wonder whether one expects...” (No poet given)
 Prompt: Write a unified essay in which you relate the imagery of the last stanza to the speaker’s view of himself earlier in the poem and to his view of how others see poets.

     Imagery is direct communication between an author and their audience, generally conveying the author's views and values through similes and metaphors. The author sets an early view of poets and himself but offers a deeper insight in the final stanza. The imagery in the final stanza is used to convey views early in the poem but on a deeper more direct manner with his audience. Through the images described by an author the audience is able to view the perspective of the author without the other bits of literature to cloud the message. In the final stanza of the given poem seven characteristics are given as the characteristics of poets and the author himself. 
    The seven characteristics given are as follows: Energy, Laziness, Discipline, "Jaws-of-Death", Error, Routine, and Futility. Each of these are represented as a person. Energy is only half there and struggling to bring itself to full force. Laziness does its best to foul Energy. Discipline is wounded but carries on. Death laughs from afar and is accompanied by Error. And finally Routine and Futility carry a steady beat. These "characters" represent the struggle held by the author to get through life. Characteristics that get in the way of our potential and allow us to fall behind. By offering these characteristics as "characters" the author is able to make a more direct connection to his audience and his view about his true self becomes apparent.
      The "characters" given are the underlying qualities of the author. Combined with the previous stanzas the authors proposes that people live in an illusion of sorts, that we go through the motions of living life day after day. The "characters" are partly at fault and partly the result of the monotony of everyday life. The qualities that are the subject of the final stanza are cause and the effect of the previous stanzas.
      Imagery allows views and ideas to be communicated directly with the audience of a work of literature. In this case imagery is used to show the underlying characteristics that cause the behaviors expressed in the poem. Imagery was used as a deeper direct connection to the audience to ensure that the authors view get across.


  1. Very impressive work, Ryan. I liked that you used quotes-- something I didn't realize was missing in the other essays I've read until now. Excellent job, I think you're ready for the exam!

  2. Well structured and substantiated with ample examples. I too think your absolutely ready for the AP Exam, Ryan :)

  3. Great job with writing two well put essays, I think if you write like this on the AP test you will do well.

  4. First essay we both used imagery and diction. So nice! The essay itself was written with a lot of thought and if it wasn’t well then I can’t image what it would be like if it had been. Well done!

  5. Great essays! You used the right examples to make your point.