Analysis of W.B.Yeats’ The Stolen Child The Stolen Child was written by W.B.Yeats in 1886. The Victorian Era of literature was in full swing, while upstart new poets, dissatisfied with the ‘airy’ nature of earlier poetic works, began demanding more concrete, realistic, and hard-hitting literature that avoided the metaphorical distancing that the Romantics were prone to. They scoffed at Yeats, at his romantic views, at his out-dated style of writing. Frustrated, perhaps even angered, by the scorn of his upcoming peers, Yeats would soon find himself wavering between the more fantastical style of his youth, and the harder-edged stuff that would come to be found in Easter 1916.
This, of course, is of little interest to the Formalistic Critic; the new critic cares not for such trivial details. Biography is not important. History is not important. The poem – that is important, for locked away within its verse lies the true meaning of The Stolen Child. By carefully studying the individual words, by understanding the tension that lies between them and the various denotations that they may hold, the critic can discover how the poem works as a whole, and how it succeeds in generating emotional impact within the reader.
The basic story of the poem is fairly simple, and obvious. The speaker, presumably a faery spirit of one sort or another, is tempting a human ‘child’. The faery reveals the joys and wonders of its mystical world, while denouncing the human world as being ‘. more full of weeping than you can understand.’ For three stanzas this magical creature tempts the ‘child’, who, in the fourth and last stanza, departs the human world, all ‘solemn-eyed’ and full of wonder. .
. .ase the emotional power of the poem. All these elements – the ambiguity of the words, the lies and truths of the speaker, the association between the child and the reader, the contrast between the world of faery and human – work together to influence the reader, to awaken an emotional reaction unique to each individual. Taken separately, these poetic techniques are interesting, perhaps, but when combined in an organic whole, they become greater then the sum of their parts. And it is this special organic whole that succeeds in creating the magic that lies within great poetry and prose, and it this special organic whole that the New Literary Critic seeks to understand. Works Cited Yeats, W.B. “The Stolen Child.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature, Volume Two. Ed. M.H.Abrams, 6th Edition. NewYork: Norton, 1993. 1865-1866.
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