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A Sense of Hope in Milton’s Sonnet XIX

A Sense of Hope in Milton’s Sonnet XIX

John Milton’s contemplative “Sonnet XIX” reveals the idea of man in adversity coming to terms with fate. Milton reflects upon the condition of his own soul in physical blindness through his ideas of service, duty, and talent in order to explore his relationship with God and his art: writing. Milton’s use of diction and structure provide clues to the sonnet’s interpretation and help resolve the thematic dilemma presented. The sonnet’s imagery connotes multiple meanings. An examination of Milton’s allusions to biblical verse and historical parallels help give important insight towards understanding the sonnet.

Milton divides this sonnet into two structural parts of iambic pentameter in the Petrarchan style. The octave is concerned with Milton’s contemplative state which flows from, “When I consider how my light is spent” (line 1). Milton links the words spent, light, death, and soul through the heavy stress of their syllables. According to Steven Wigler, the egocentric tone of the octave is revealed in the use of the pronouns I, me, and my, which appear eight times in the first eight lines (Wigler 156). Milton’s obsessive concern with whether he will be expected to fulfill the demands of his service builds until the first part ends with his question, “Doth God exact day-labor, light denied,” (line 7) followed by, “I fondly ask but Patience to prevent”(line 8). Milton has capitalized the word patience. He is deifying the word to help transform the tone in the sestet. Milton foreshadows a resolution by associating the qualities of patience with God. Milton seems consumed with emphasizing his serious intention and concern for himself as a writer in the octave, but later balances …

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…necessarily imply extinguished light. It can simultaneously represent the burning of light in the present. Milton has left his reader with a sense of hope.

Works Cited

Honigmann, E.A.J. “Sonnet XIX.” Milton’s Sonnets. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1966. 169-76.

Nardo, Anna K. Milton’s Sonnets

Helen as Angel and Rebel in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Helen as Angel and Rebel in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

In nineteenth century England, the lives of men and women were completely different. The women had very few – or no – rights and the man had absolute power over his wife and children. He even had the rights to his wife’s income or heritage! The only acceptable way for a woman to lead her life was to be a social character, a supporting wife and loving mother, so to speak an “angel in the house”. The term “the angel in the house” refers to Coventry Patmore’s poem with the same name. The poem depicts the ideal of a loving, unselfish, (sexually) passive and sensitive woman, who was religious and devoted to please her husband: “Man must be please; but him to please, is woman’s pleasure — And if he once, by shame oppress’d [sic!], a comfortable word confers, she leans and weeps against his breast, and seems to think the sin was hers — she loves with love that cannot tire…”. This was the only acceptable way of life for a woman and in this essay I discuss whether Helen Graham should be described as an angel or a rebel, and to what extent she fulfils the criteria for a woman’s mission in nineteenth century England.

What exactly was women’s mission during the nineteenth century? The answer to this question can be found in the many so-called conduct books, which were written by women for women during the nineteenth century. These books were written for the middle-class and stated how a woman should act and behave. The conclusion we can draw from these books is that a woman’s duty and mission in life was to be the religious and moral part of the household, to be a good mother and a supporting and caring wife. One author who wrote on the subject of woman’s mission and dut…

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…tions in order to save her offspring from growing up under his father’s influence. She would probably have stood by her husband even longer if it had not been for their son. By later returning to her sick husband, she once again takes on the role of a “good wife”, but shows no remorse to what she has done. When he dies, Helen is finally rewarded by knowing that she has fulfilled her duty as his wife and her mission as a woman and can go on with her life and the happiness that awaits her. In my opinion, she is a true heroine and an angel-like rebel.


Brontë, Anne. The Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Ellis, Sarah Stickney: The women of England

Patmore, Coventry: “The Angel in the House” from Representations of women in Whitman and his culture. (Internet). Oct 15, 2000.

Perkin, Joan: Victorian women

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