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Depression in To Seem the Stranger, Fell of Dark, Carrion Comfort, and No Worst

Depression in To seem the Stranger, Fell of Dark, Carrion Comfort, and No Worst

I believe that there can be seen a progressive deepening of depression throughout Hopkins’ so-called terrible sonnets. The poems I intend to look at will show this, starting with “To seem the Stranger lies my Lot”, “I wake and Feel the Fell of Dark”, “Carrion Comfort”, “No Worst, there is None”, and finally “My own Heart let me more have Pity on”. The first of the above poems shows the beginning of Hopkins’ descent into depression. This is followed by “I wake and Feel …”, illustrating Hopkins descending further into depression. The depths to which Hopkins sank are shown in “Carrion Comfort” and in “No Worst, there is None”. Following this, “My own Heart …” represents the beginnings of an ascent out of depression, and into a more stable frame of mind. Although the order of the poems are set by the editors of various collections, I think that the above order is the order in which they were written, based on their content.

The symptoms of the early stages of depression, that of paranoia, listlessness and feelings of isolation are recounted in ‘To seem the Stranger lies my Lot’. Although in some cases, these feelings tend to be a result of mental imbalance, and have little or no relationship with external reality, in Hopkins’ case it would seem that his feelings of isolation are in some senses valid. Following Hopkins’ decision to become a Catholic, he came to be rejected by his family. This then would explain his bitterness:

Father and Mother dear,

Brothers and sisters are in Christ not near

And he my peace my parting, sword and strife.

To seem the Stranger lies my Lot, lines 2-4

This bitterness he feels about the gulf that now exists between himself and his family is expressed in the irony of Christ being both the bringer of peace, and the cause of the “sword and strife”. The paranoia common to the early stages of depression is also expressed:

Only what word

Wisest my heart breeds dark heaven’s baffling ban

Bars or hell’s spell thwarts.

To seem the Stranger lies my Lot, lines 11-13

The alliteration both of the repeated ‘b’ and ‘ell’ sounds show frustration at his being not allowed to write his poetry. He transfers the decision of his Jesuit superiors to “ban” his poetry to being one of God himself.

The Ultimate Fulfillment in Man’s Fate by Andre Malraux

The Ultimate Fulfillment in Man’s Fate

In Man’s Fate, Andre Malraux examines the compelling forces that lead individuals to join a greater cause. Forced into a life of contempt, Ch’en portrays the man of action in the early phases of the Chinese Revolution. He dedicates himself to the communist cause. It is something greater than himself, a phenomenal concept that he has fused into. It is something for which he will give his life. How did this devotion come about? A combination of his personality, his interior life, as well as society’s influence, molded him into a terrorist. Ch’en is self-destructive; he is controlled by his religion of terrorism and his fascination with death. He is representative of the dedicated soldier who begins as a “sacrificial priest” (4) and ends as a martyr. After all, the ideologies of communism and terrorism were practically a religion to those involved in the revolution.

An examination of Ch’en’s past gives us an idea of how he formed his beliefs, and fell into a state of isolation. At an early age, his parents were murdered in the pillage of Kalagan. In addition, at age twenty-four, his uncle was taken hostage and killed because he couldn’t afford the ransom, and with no wife or children he was severed from any attachment to a family. He was practically brought up by pastor Smithson, representative of the thousands of Christians that were present in Shanghai, who gave him his Christian education. However, “[a]s he was devoid of charity, a religious calling could lead him only to contemplation or the inner life; but he hated contemplation and would only have dreamt of an apostleship, for which precisely his absence of charity disqualified him” (64). Thus, he was u…

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…reams which take possession of us because we give them force, but which we can just as easily deny” (180). This is further reinforced by Ch’en’s idea that “In the last hour I have felt nothing of what used to weigh on me” (192). Ch’en is the terrorist for the insurrection. His faith had isolated himself from the world instead of submitting to it. We have a personal need for connection, Ch’en is isolated until the end, when all differences are subsumed. Communism gives a sense of escaping isolation. For under this ideology there is a personal connection and a feeling of equality. It is the ultimate fulfillment to live his idea, and more importantly to die for his cause – a cause that is much greater than the individual. In the end Ch’en becomes the bomb.


Malraux, Andre. Man’s Fate: La Condition Humaine. New York: Vintage Books. 1990

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