Mont Blanc Assignment

Printer-friendly versionSend by email

Mont Blanc Assignment

Read through Mont Blanc by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Perform a close reading of the poem:

  • If the poem tells us a story, who are the main characters and what kind of people are they? If the poem presents feelings and ideas, what kind of person is the speaker of the poem, the *persona? That is, what are his or her habitual attitudes?
  • If the poem narrates an event, what happens? If the poem presents us with a speaker's thoughts and feelings, does any change take place in them over the course of the poem — that is, what happens internally?
  • Pick out three or four *images, *metaphors, and/or *similes that you find particularly striking. Write them down, specifing what they are, and note the page number. Now think for a moment: what ideas are conveyed by these images and metaphors? How are they significant?
  • Look for instances of rhyme, assonance, and alliteration: what ideas do they emphasize?

Definitions of terms Used:

from The Longman Anthology of British Literature's glossary, and M. H. Abrams, A Glossary of Literary Terms.

persona: The word "persona" means "mask" in Latin. In poetry and fiction, a persona is the projected speaker or narrator of the work -- that is, a mask for the actual author. Examples of personae are the first-person narrator of Milton's Paradise Lost, the Gulliver who tells us about his misadventures in Gulliver's Travels, the speaker who first talks to himself, then to his sister, in Wordsworth's "Tintern Abbey,", and the Duke who tells the emissary about his former wife in Browning's "My Last Duchess." By calling these speakers "personae," we stress the fact that they are all part of the fiction, characers invented for a particular artistic purpose. That the "I" in each of these works is not the author as he exists in everyday life is obvious enough in the case of Swift's Gulliver and Browning's Duke, less obvious in the case of Milton and Wordsworth.

image: A concrete picture that carries a sensual and emotive connotation. An object of sense perception that is referred to in a poem or other work of literature. An image is "a picture made out of words."

metaphor: A metaphor treats something as if it were something else. A metaphor explains an abstract idea or intangible object in terms of concrete objects or everyday activities and events. One word (usually something concrete: "assaulting enemies" or "the sea") is applied to an abstract idea ("trouble") so that readers can better understand what the abstract idea designates. Metaphorical equations (trouble = sea) of an abstraction with a concrete object or activity are sometimes explicit ("a sea of troubles") and sometimes implicit:

"I fell in love with him instantly." Love is a cliff, or a pit, something you fall off of or into.

"Should I take arms against [my] troubles?" Troubles are assaulting enemies.

"I saved so much time by going to Quik-Stop." Time is money; it can be spent or saved.

To find out more about metaphors, especially about how they structure all our language and thought, see Lakoff and Johnson, Metaphors We Live By.

simile: A simile is a metaphor that uses the words "like" or "as": "Just as an army assaults another one in the field of battle, all my troubles assault me day in and day out."

rhyme: the effect created by matching sounds at the ends of words: "love / dove."

assonance: repetition of middle vowel sounds: "fight / hive."

alliteration: two or more words chime on the same initial letter ("lost love") or repeat the same consonant ("lost love alone").