skip to main | skip to sidebar
Home » » What is pathetic fallacy?

The pathetic fallacy is the attribution of human emotions or characteristics to inanimate objects or to nature; for example, angry clouds; a cruel wind. The word ‘pathetic’ in this use to related to ‘pathos’ or ‘empathy’ (capability of feeling), and is not pejorative. The term was coined by the critic John Ruskin (1819-1900) in his 1856 work Modern Painters. To demonstrate his meaning Ruskin quotes Charles Kingsley’s poem, “The Sands of Dee”: 

“They rowed her in across the rolling foam — The cruel, crawling foam” 

In 1971, M. H. Abrams, in A Glossary of Literary Terms, notes _ that the term has undergone a relative diminishment of form and defines pathetic fallacy as “a common phenomenon in descriptive poetry, in which the ascription of human traits to inanimate nature is less formally managed than in the figure called personification.” In some classical poetic forms such as the pastoral elegy, the pathetic, fallacy is actually a required convention. In Milton’s “On the Morning of Christ’s Nativity,” all aspects of nature react affectively to the event of Christ’s birth. 

The stars with deep amaze Stand fixt in steadfast gaze. 

In “The Lotos Eaters” we find an example of pathetic fallacy. Nature in the poem sympathizes with human beings and reflects their mood or state of mind. The landscape and the scenery described in the poem are symbolic of the inner feelings of the . mariners. The mariners reach the beach of the Lotos land in the afternoon. It is a place where, strangely, it always seems to be afternoon. All around the shore on which the waves beat, the languid air swoons, and the soft air is very gentle and slow, breathing like a person in a weary dream. The flow of water in the stream appears to be touched with the sleepy effect of the lotos: “The slender stream along the cliff to fall and pause and fall did seem.” 

Some of the streams fall like drowsy smoke, like slowly-dropping veils made of . the thinnest “lawn,” a kind of gauzy, semi-transparent white cloth. The snow on the peaks remains unmelted for many years. The sun seems always to be in the late, sleepy time of day, as though enchanted (charmed), under a magic spell. The crimson light of the © setting sun seems to be dreaming over the myrrh-bush. Thus, it seems that Nature like the islanders has eaten the lotos and is under the influence of the lotos.


Post a Comment

Back To Top