About D. H. Lawrence:
Born in 1885, a time where the world was undergoing an intellectual revolution, David Herbert (D H) Lawrence, who soaked in this atmosphere, became one of its voices of modernism. He became the author of many famous and notable works, the most famous ones being known for their controversial themes. In fact, they were so controversial that he was forced to go on a voluntary exile, which he called his ‘savage pilgrimage’. In spite of this, he continued writing poems and novels, many of which met with harsh criticism and severed distribution. Some of his most notable works are Sons and lovers, The Rainbow, Women in Love, and his most controversial work, Lady Chatterley’s Lover. A novelist, poet, playwright, essayist, literary critic and painter, this versatile man died in the year 1930 of tuberculosis.
About How Beastly The Bourgeois Is:
In this poem, Lawrence speaks of the bourgeois, the middle class and how their inner characteristics contradict with their outer appearance.
Setting of How Beastly The Bourgeois Is:
There is no real setting in the poem. It is all the poet’s thoughts and opinions. But the whole takes place on England soil, as said in the last sentence of the poem and so the setting of the poem can be considered to be England.
Poetic Devices in How Beastly The Bourgeois Is:
The poem is written in complete free verse. There is no rhyme or rhythm.
The sentence ‘How beastly the bourgeois is’ which is the title of the poem too, is repeated a number of times in the poem. It goes on to show the poet’s strong feelings towards them.
There are some similes in the poem. The act of the bourgeois going soggy, ‘like a wet meringue’ and of them standing erect and sleek ‘like a mushroom’; these are examples of similes.
The characteristics of the bourgeois are hugely exaggerated when the poet speaks of them as a whole. They may be true in some cases, but encompassing the whole of their group under one and claiming his opinions to be true in all them is completely an exaggeration. Then there is another hyperbole when he claims the bourgeois’ outer appearance to be ‘God’s own image.’
There is some alliteration every time the poet uses the sentence ‘How beastly the bourgeois is’. And when the speaker speaks of the mushroom: ‘erect and eyeable’.
There is some pleasing imagery and some ghastly imagery. The pleasing imagery comes in the beginning when the poet describes the outer appearance of the male bourgeois. The ghastly imagery comes when he speaks of the mushroom, standing upright but with worms inside it.
Summary of How Beastly The Bourgeois Is:
The speaker starts the poem by commenting on how beastly the bourgeois are. He focuses on especially the male species.
They look presentable but it is only on the outside. Their healthy and handsome appearance is in contradiction with their inner self, which when meets a new challenge instantly goes ‘soggy’. Unable to cope up with it, he becomes a mess, a fool or a bully.
The bourgeois are like a mushroom, standing erect and sleek, but all the while feeding off others. He’s stale inside, all wormy and hollow.
The speaker ends the poem by saying it’s a pity that all the bourgeois can’t be kicked over, back into the soil of England.
Analysis of How Beastly The Bourgeois Is:
The speaker of the poem starts right off the bat by calling the bourgeois beastly. He does not mince his words at all and gets right to the point. He especially points out to the males.
He says they are presentable. He repeats this for emphasis. And then he says, ‘shall I make you a present of him?’. This right here is a play on the word present. When he asks the question, the speaker means to say that shall I list out his features and characteristics for you.
He speaks of the bourgeois outer appearance. He asks if he isn’t handsome, healthy and a fine specimen. On the outside, does not the outer appearance resemble that of a fresh clean Englishman? He further emphasises these qualities by asking if the bourgeois isn’t God’s own image. This here is a hyperbole; same as the whole poem. He says that the male tramps thirty miles a day and asks if we wouldn’t like to be like him. This whole paragraph is complete and pure sarcasm. It is a prelude to the main message of the poem. And because the speaker raises the bourgeois to such a high level in this paragraph, the following paragraphs make that much more of an impact on the reader.
‘Oh, but wait!’ The speaker says. We can tell by this one sentence, accompanied by the knowledge of the title of the poem, that the speaker was going to contradict whatever he said in the previous paragraph. He says that when the same handsome, healthy bourgeois meets with a new emotion, when he meets with another man’s need, with a moral difficulty or with a demand of new understanding, the male bourgeois goes all soggy just like a wet meringue. Meringue is a type of sweet food and it goes all mushy when its wet. The speaker says that just like that, the male bourgeois too becomes a mess. Unable to cope up with it, he comes a fool, or if he’s of a rather unpleasant type, a bully. He makes quite a display when he becomes like this. In this paragraph, the speaker speaks of the weak-minded personality of the bourgeois.
The speaker again repeats the first paragraph for emphasis.
The speaker then compares the male to a mushroom. Mushroom is a fungus, which stands erect and sleek. But for it do so, it consumes nutrients out of dead leaves shed from a tree bigger than it. The speaker says that the bourgeois do the same; sucking up to the rich or taking from the weak.
But even by doing this they are not fresh. They are stale inside, remaining there too long and hence, all gone inside; just like how the mushroom still stands upright even when all of its insides are eaten away by worms. This is to say that while male bourgeois are healthy and good looking on the outside, inside they are just hollow and plain nasty. They are full of seething feelings.
The speaker says these male bourgeois are in thousands all over the ‘damp’ England and that it is a pity that they can’t be kicked over like ‘sickening’ toadstools. Now toadstools are the spore-bearing fruiting body of a fungus, which are inedible or poisonous. This, combined with the ‘sickening’ adjective, is enough to show what exactly the speaker thinks of the bourgeois. ‘Damp’ is used in relation to England here because toadstools grow more in damp regions. In short, the speaker says that it is a pity that the ‘poisonous’ cannot be killed off.
The speaker is pretty brutal in his opinions. Considering the speaker is the poet himself, these opinions can be found to stem from his family experiences. Lawrence had unpleasant experiences as a child in relation to the middle class, in the form of his parents’ fights and many more, and this can be seen as cause for his deep embedded negativity towards this class. Whatever the reason, Lawrence succeeds in writing another controversial piece of verse.
Central Idea of How Beastly The Bourgeois Is:
The central idea of the poem is to showcase the superficial characteristics of the bourgeois.
Tone of How Beastly The Bourgeois Is:
The tone of the poem is one full of contempt and disgust towards the bourgeois and their superficial characteristics.
D H Lawrence draws a brutal picture of the bourgeois of his times, and their superficiality and inner characteristics and showcases his deep contempt and disgust towards them, and stands up to his tag as a controversial poet.
Contributor: Uttej Reddy
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