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“I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud” by William Wordsworth

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  • Pages: 5
  • Word count: 1071
  • Category: Poems

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Examining Theme Through Similes

Wordsworth most important literary device in the work is the simile of the title and first line itself, “I Wondered Lonely as a Cloud”.  The extensive metaphor and the usage of the title and first line simile allow the audience to understand themselves and their role in nature, succinctly and successfully.  This limits over-analyzing the personification and metaphot to allow the reader to make conclusions on the theme of the work without becoming so entranced in other literary forms that one can easily see that there is a direct link between ourselves and the world in which we live.  The simplicity and beauty of nature is directly correlated with the simplicity and beauty of the work. This is essential in making the theme connect with the simple simile and connotations of wondering lonely as a cloud, as the essence of natural life.  The metaphors are used to display emotion on the part of the speaker, whereas the simile is intended to bring thought to the audience, not emotion.  By the speaker extending his own emotions, we are able to understand the theme of the part we play in the world, once we reflect back on that very title and first line.

Though Wordsworth does usefully display the metaphor of the daffodils and the personification of these dancing daffodils as people, that is useful in showing that we are all part of nature and so this personification only used to compliment the simile used to evoke thought from the audience related to the theme that we do not appreciate ourselves in relation to nature and we do not appreciate nature itself.  The speaker easily uses the metaphor to connect his own emotions upon seeing the dancing daffodils, he also connects the many stars in the universe to these daffodils the widen the scope of the world, so the audience can understand the grandness of things.  This also brings about the idea of unity with all of nature and with people.  All of the connections go back to the title and first line, when at first the author believes that he is alone, like a cloud.  The audience then would gather that the piece before reading it would be filled with the tone of sadness and loneliness, when in fact it is not.  This discrepancy itself, is a clue to the theme that Wordsworth is aiming for.  He believes that he has learned a lesson from the beginning to the end of the work and the audience is invited along on that journey.

Therefore it is essential to look at the final lines of the work to see how the simile of the first line and the title, itself, is resolved.  It is here that the theme presents itself most clearly.  Michael Cummings in his Study Guide to this work, believes that there are more lines in which the theme is clear, but since the issue in the speaker’s mind presents itself in the first line it is only sensible that the last lines would provide the closure or the biggest clue to the work’s significance as it relates to the speaker’s journey of understanding.  The entire last stanza shows the beauty of nature and of solitude when one reflects about the rest of the world, so it is not one bit sad or lonely.  Cummings believes that when Wordsworth says in the final stanza in lines 23 and 24 “And then my heart with pleasure fills, And dances with the daffodils” that “nature’ s beauty uplifts the human spirit”.  Other similar themes that are reflected in the word, according to Cummings is “people sometimes fail to appreciate nature’s wonders as they go about their daily routines” and “nature thrives unattended” (2008).

Though the theme is presented and each of the themes previously suggested all are similar, in that we rely upon nature to uplift our own spirits, but nature does not rely on us.  Therefore, if we are to be connected with nature, we can rest in solitude and will not rely on the effects of what is expected of man when it comes to loneliness.  Instead, we can look at ourselves as simply unattended and this is good.  However, it is my assertion that the emergence of the question of theme of the poem comes from the title and the first line and, though it can be claimed as irony, as this loneliness is not considered negative.  Some, however agree that the first lines are of extreme importance, one author believes that “I wondered lonely as a cloud” is a complicated metaphor, which is not true.

I will then adopt one particular starting point in a three-dimensional approach to metaphor as expression, idea, and utterance, presenting the groundwork for a conceptual taxonomy of metaphor. In particular, distinctions will be introduced between simple and complex metaphor, restricted and extended metaphor, and explicit and implicit metaphor. All of these distinctions are independent of each other. They also require support from linguistic and communicative metaphor analysis. Finally, I will apply these principles to the first two lines of William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud,” revealing how the linguistic, conceptual, and communicative structure of these lines interact to produce an intricate piece of poetry (Steen, 1999).

In conclusion, the simile of “I wondered lonely as a cloud” is central to inviting to the audience, the theme of man’s part in the natural world.  Metaphor is useful, as is the irony of loneliness, as it is later revealed to be a positive.  However without the direct connection to nature in this simile to the speaker, the rest of the work would be subject to complicated analysis and the theme would be lost.  Though some analysts agree on the importance of the first two lines of the work, but examine them as a complicated form of metaphor.  This work’s theme is of the beauty and simplicity of nature and therefore, naturally its analysis should be naturally simple and it is.

Works Cited

Cummings, Michael J. “I Wondered Lonely as a Cloud”: A Poem by William Wordsworth (1771-1850): A Study Guide.  (2008) . Accessible Online <http://www.cummingsstudyguides.net/Guides3/IWandered.html#Figures>.  Last Accessed 11, November, 2008.

Steen, Gerard. Analyzing Metaphor in Literature: With Examples from William Wordsworth’s “I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud”  Poetics Today – Volume 20, Number 3, Fall 1999, pp. 499-522.

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