The Use Of Juxtapositions In Muse E Des Beaux Arts

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The use of juxtapositions in “Musée des Beaux Arts”

‘Musée des Beaux Arts’ is a poem with many juxtapositions, which is used by Auden as a narrative technique. The first juxtaposition is ‘suffering’ alongside the mundane activities carried out by any regular person: ‘eating’, ‘opening a window’, and ‘walking dully along’. This particular contrast is significant as it reflects how suffering is inevitable and often it occurs amid terrestrial routines which take place without much thought emphasising one possible message Auden is trying to give to his readers which is that humans are selfish but unwillingly. Nevertheless, a mocking and humourous tone is created via Auden placing the ridiculous: ‘walking dully along’ and the tragic: ‘suffering’ alongside one another evoking an understanding that suggests it is morbid for us to live our lives in such a selfish manner. Just as Everett has pointed out in her book, Auden, it is difficult to pinpoint Auden’s actual thoughts in his poetry as “Auden can argue, reflect, joke, gossip, sing, analyze, lecture, hector, and simply talk”.

A second juxtaposition is the indifference between the old ‘waiting for the miraculous birth’ and ‘the children who did not specially want it to happen’. ‘The miraculous birth’ is used to draw a parallelism in the poem with the Christian account of Christ’s birth and Auden notes that the birth was anticipated ‘passionately’ and eagerly as a miracle, which could offer permanent redemption from the oppression of torment. Furthermore, Auden offers hints that only a miracle could offer an inducement from the egotistical lifestyle to a selfless one.

Auden’s juxtapositions infer that individual burdens are individual tragedies as humans are uninvolved with one another. It is unclear if Auden is trying to satirise humans’ indifferences to one another, as apposing the tragic with the ridiculous can be polysemic since Auden wrote that ‘the ulterior purpose [of poetry]...is telling the truth, to...
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