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How does Yeats present Freedom and Escapism in The Stolen Child

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“The Stolen Child” is a poem written based on the traditional Irish folklore of faeries known as changelings who would steal children away in their sleep so that the faeries can take their place. Yeats wrote this poem in 1886 where the hysteria was at its peak in Ireland.

This poem contains many elements of freedom and escapism throughout however, there is an element of confinement and death underpinning the whole poem as there is something very sinister about the fact that kids are being taken away. These themes are seen in other of Yeats’s poems where he explores the idea of freedom but still sustains the idea of entrapment and despair.

Firstly, Yeats portrays the idea escapism through the ever present meaning of the children being enticed by the faeries. The faeries are seen to be convincing the child to leave the real world to join the fantasy world. This conveys the idea of the child wanting to escape the pain and suffering in the real world to join the more natural and perfect faery world. This is emphasised by the repetition of the line “Come away, O human child” portraying the idea of the child escaping reality to a better life.

Additionally, the repetition throughout the whole poem is followed by the alteration in the last stanza to “Away with us he’s going” shows that escaping is inevitable no matter how hard you try to stop it. Moreover, the vivid description of nature in the fantasy world portrays the fact that nature is a way to escape reality. This is shown by the use of senses in the poem so that the reader can truly experience the nature as shown by “reddest stolen cherries”, “flapping herons” and “kettle on the hob”; these phrases spark sensory reactions from the reader so they can also sense what it means to be free from reality and be one with nature.

Additionally, this makes the reader appreciate the natural beauty and makes them believe that they can escape anytime they want in the real world. Similarly, the idea of nature being a way to escape is seen “The Wild Swans at Coole” as Yeats visits the Park annually during autumn to free himself from the shackles of his age and remain young at heart. This is displayed by him describing his love for the swans as he states “Their hearts have not grown old”; it can be inferred as Yeats is seeing a reflection of him in the swans and feels that he hasn’t changed at all.

Moreover, the fact that he sees himself in such “brilliant white” creatures can also be inferred to show that Yeats is becoming free from his own personality to a completely different one of innocence and beauty. Furthermore, the theme of freedom can be seen through the imagery of the animals in the poem. The dynamic image of “flapping heron” displays the ability of flight which represents that the heron is free to go where it wants.

Moreover, the trout in the “young streams” show that the trout are able to swim in the free flowing waters because the streams are guiding the trout to where they want to go. Also, the streams are said to be “[gushing]” which suggests again suggests a very dynamic image which can be seen to show the passion to get freedom by the trout. Additionally, the “calves on the warm hillside” contains the sustained concept of freedom because the calves are not bound by any means which means they are able to explore the hillside and graze upon their free will.

Also, “hillside” is a very broad and expansive area which is used to emphasise how much space the cows have in comparison to fences. This concept of freedom can also be seen in “The Wild Swans at Coole” because the brilliant swans are described to “all suddenly mount”.

This is exactly the same as “The Stolen Child” because the imagery of flight is being used again in order to depict the freedom that the swans have through their ability to fly away at their will. Furthermore, Yeats ends the poem with the rhetoric question of “To find they have flown away? ; this can be seen as a worry from Yeats due to all the freedom that the swans have as it suggests the fact that he may never see them again. Additionally, the imagery of desert birds in “The Second Coming” can also be seen as freedom because of the fact that even though the birds are restricted to the desert biome they are able to fly to any location within the biome in order to hunt for food and resources. However, even though there is an underlying theme of confinement and death.

Hence, even though the children are said to be “escaping” problems; they are only being misled to a faery world where they would be trapped and would no longer witness the beauty of reality as mentioned in the last paragraph. Therefore, it’s not freedom but rather a trap. Additionally, Yeats uses the alliteration with “waters and the wild” which creates an element of hypnotism because of the “w”; this suggests that the child is not in control of the situation and he is being tricked into it by the faeries.

Furthermore, the is emphasised by the rats in the fantasy world as being “drowsy” which hints to the idea of them being drugged which again shows that they do not have control of their actions. Finally, this is also accentuated by the child being described as “solemn-eyed” and this suggests that the child must be spell bound because his eyes lack life. Similarly, in “The Second Coming” despite the fact that the falcon is “free” to roam around, it always returns to the falconer because it has been trained to do so meaning that it is not really free and cannot escape the clutches.

Moreover, the desert birds are shown to be circling the beast which suggests that they are confined and restricted to the vicinity of the beast because it provides them with food. Also, the poem contains a cyclical nature of gyres which emphasises the fact that there is no escape and that everything going to repeat itself; this is also highlighted by the free verse structure which shows chaos and this is a theme which opposes freedom.

Overall, the elements of freedom and escapism are present in “The Stolen Child” and various other poems written by Yeats; however they are also contradictory and are full of ideas which suggest that there is no freedom at all and that everything is restricted to and by something whether it be necessities or inability. Moreover, Yeats convinces the reader of the possibility of freedom via the use of repetition for emphasis however, he then uses structure and alliteration to convey the sense of entrapment.

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