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Present and the older generation

Simon Korner explicates a poem, For the Union Dead, written by Robert Lowell. In his unveiling of the poem, Korner first presents a brief introduction utilizing the example of Frederick Douglass’ life. This sets the stage for how Korner will present the poem. Frederick Douglas was a leader of the abolitionist movement. Korner links the brief description of Frederick Douglass with Lowell’s poem by relating Douglass’ ideals and work with the ideals of the Union, which were embodied in the poem.

Korner’s analysis of the scene with the aquarium and the boy mark the glass of the aquarium as the barrier between the boy and the natural world and vice versa. The boy’s enthusiasm and surprise while observing the aquarium are representative of a mind that is eager to explore and know more, seeking to be able to touch life. This is then compared to the older state of the character, which is said to be lifeless. Korner also takes these to be representations of the present and the older generation.

The present generation, which is represented by the character in the present time or the old man, is disconnected from their history while the older generation, which is represented by the young boy, is deeply set in reaching out for their roots and for a better understanding of their history. Korner emphasizes the fact that the present time is centered on consumerism with individuals who are mindless of the effects of their actions. As he points this out, Korner draws out Lowell’s backtrack into history.

This shift in the poem marks the point where it stops being simply a reminiscence of an old aquarium and starts being something more significant, a look back at the Union dead. In the poem, Korner notes, the Union dead is made to include the numerous black soldiers who fought alongside Colonel Shaw who was immortalized in the monument. It is this monument that sticks like a fishbone because it forces the city to remember the numerous lost lives represented by the bronze. Although the colonel is depicted as someone who is puritanical, he is said to be redeemed because of the great sacrifice he made for the country.

His dedication to his cause and his willingness to give up his life for it were valued highly by both Lowell and Korner. The monument is not only representative of the lives lost in the Civil War but is also an analogy to the past, the time of the Civil War. In the present era, the monument is seen to be fenced off, history is separated from the present age. The poet, Korner shows, then moves from a focused view on the monument to a more macroscopic view of the surrounding area, New England in general. It is here that the poem again implies a distance between the present generation and history.

The detachment is not only one that springs from not knowing about past events but also one that is rooted on an inability to preserve the ideals of the past generations. Succeeding lines of the poem again echo the concept of consumerism. Wars are no longer remembered with monuments but with advertisements. The present generation no longer feels the need to remember. Korner notes a certain helplessness in the poet’s depiction of the main character. He also notes, however, that history is allowed to march on by Lowell despite the fact that it is only viewed from a distance by the present generation.

This is the real drive of the poem, according to Korner. It is a piece of helplessness but of rage at the same time. Rage that history is ignored and forgotten. Rage that history continues without witnesses. It is rage against those who forgot about democracy and freedom. And a helplessness at the limits of the present bourgeois owing mainly to the evils of consumerism and capitalism. When comparing Korner’s explication with my own, the latter is noticeably less informed about the background of the poem. Korner’s explication is based more on solid facts which he used in order to draw the meaning out of the poem.

My own explication, on the other hand is a more reflective type of explication. Where Korner shows the poem as a way of differentiating the present generation from the past, especially in terms of the Union generation, my explication focuses on the aquarium and the significances it has with the character. In the first, the Civil War is one of the pivots upon which the poem centers. In the latter, the Civil War is simply another analogy or comparison for the initial events presented in the poem – the aquarium being turned into a parking garage. When reading both explications, it is clear that Korner’s explication is the better one.

This is because it is more fact-based. Any reader would be able to truly accept the points presented by Korner because he backs these up with hard facts and historical events. Presenting the lines of the poem in tandem with his explication also strengthens his explication. The other explication, on the other hand, is not able to give as strong a presentation. Simply presenting the poem and its probable meaning on the basis of the words in the poem itself is relatively weak. In order to delve into the mind of the poet, Lowell, the writer of the explication must first understand the possible events that could have led to such a piece.

These events are sure to be historical and significant ones when considering a piece like For the Union Dead. This means that research into these events would not prove hard. However, the explication written by myself was not able to present such events. Some of the lines in the poem were left out of the explication simply because it would not fit into the theme already employed. Sticking to the theme of the aquarium and the parking garage is not a solid choice because the said event is not consistent throughout the poem.

It only appears in the first and last parts. Korner’s assertions about the piece, however, do hold true for the entirety of the poem. This, again, is proven, by his continued insertion of lines from For the Union Dead in order to guide the flow of his explication. It would seem that my explication in comparison with Korner’s is rather superficial. What is present in my explication that is not present in Korner’s, however, is exactly that – the relatively superficial meaning, which could just have easily been the intention of the poet.

My explication provides the general reader with a chance to understand the implications of the aquarium and the old man as well as the changing city. This explication focuses on the concept of aging, growing old. The basic assumption seen in the poem is that when one grows old, numerous changes occur. These changes are also seen in the world of the one who is growing old. However, what matters most is that the ideas and views developed when that individual was still a child be maintained. Korner, spoke of past and present generations but he spoke of them as separate entities.

Korner established the view of one generation watching the other, of one being starkly different from the other. My own explication, however, brought the old man and young boy together as one person. Instead of viewing them as representations of two different generations, I took them for what they were, representations of a man at different ages of his life. By presenting the poem in this way, my explication was most likely able to draw a more accurate understanding of the learnings to be garnered from the poem in relation to the young boy and the old man.

However, it still holds that Korner’s explication is better because of the fact that he was able to utilize many resources to back up the statements in his explication. Also, Korner was able to maintain the focus on the Civil War, which was in actuality a large part of the poem, whereas I was not. Korner’s explication presented numerous points regarding the bulk of the poem speaking about the monument, negroes, and the Civil War. My own explication focused more on points aimed at events presented only mainly in the first and last parts of the poem – fish, aquariums parking garages, and changes.

Reviewing Korner’s explication made me realize that I could change parts of my explication to make it stronger. Utilizing facts and historical events to edify the use of the Civil War in the poem, for example, would be one of those changes. Instead of focusing too much on the aquarium and the fishes, I would also expound on the Civil War and the implications of the monument more. Also, I would alternate my own thoughts in the explication with lines from the poem in order to provide a stronger case.

My general thesis about aging and growing old would be kept but the supporting points would be added to. Over-all, Korner’s explication is a much better piece than my own. It was able to give justice to Lowell and the poem. In order to improve my own explication, I would need to imitate the flow of Korne’rs explication as well as utilize his method of adding facts and information about the events pertained to by Lowell in For the Union Dead. Knowing these things by myself would also help me understand the poem more in order to produce a more comprehensive explication.

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