The Lady of Shalott Essay

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As befits a text whose operations are profoundly equivocal, the landscape into which "The Lady of Shalott" draws its reader is one precisely ordered in terms of opposition and division: "On either side the river lie / Long fields of barley and of rye." Yet the opening description of place includes a detail whose effect is to disrupt the coherence of another opposition—between illusion and reality—which is central to the organization of symbolic space within the poem as a whole. While firmly divided from one another, Tennyson's "fields," we are told, nonetheless "meet the sky" fashioning a conjunction which, as Edgar F. Shannon, Jr. points out, is purely the result of an optical illusion. Though the text seeks to confine the presence of illusions solely to "The island of Shallot", it is evident from the outset that they exist in realms beyond its boundaries. Even before the...

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This section contains 1,980 words
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Poetry for Students
The Lady of Shalott from Poetry for Students. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.