Journal of South Asian Literature. v 11, V. 11 ( 1976) p. 229.


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K, D Verma

MYTH AND IMAGERY IN THE UNFINISHED MAN: A CRITICAL READING

Archetypes in one of the poet^ major collections

Although The Unfinished Man marks a positive advance over the early poems in terms of quality of perception and poetic imageJ this volume essentially exhibits Ezekiel's continued and keen concern with life, especially the image of man. This concern with existence, which springs from ethical anxiety and commitment and which is based on a conception of correspondence between life and art, takes the form of an ironic myth in which the central images are those of his hero, the city and the woman. As man strives to exist in a modern urban society, to search for truth and to realize identity with the self and the community, his struggles, failures and frustrations reveal not only his own inward nature, but also the insufficiency and frailty of the fallen city, an image of which we may find both in Eliot and Auden, Deeply rooted in Ezekiel's ironic perception of existence and the polis^ the mythic concern, however, centers on the image of man, which, as the title of the work as well as the epigraph from Yeats suggest, remains unfinished,. The evolutionary view of human nature, which in one sense is Romantic, and even Freudian, and in another existential and classical, affords Ezekiel to view life and art as a continuous journey of the self. But the metaphor of the journey, as I propose to show, is ironic, though very apt, in the context of Ezekiel's myth.2 The problem I am raising here directly pertains to the dimensions of the myth and the reality that ^'t encompasses

The imaginative cosmos of the Romantics presupposes the capacity of the mind to experience infinitude and consists of both the worlds of experience and realityo It is a world in which the heroic spirit of man projects his totality of being thereby achieving fulfillment, self-realization and identity Although the world of experience, the fallen world, stands in an ironic contrasts to the ideal world, the two worlds together offer a full and comprehensive canvas, both in terms of form and content, to image life and reality. Much of the modern poetry, in the contrary, subscribes to the view that the nature of the man is finite and that its principal concern is the world of experience, the image of life as it is, the fallen world like that of Eliot's The Waste Lands or the usurous world of Pound's The Cantos. However, there is a significant thread of continuity running through the two sensibilities, especia^y in re-ordering and re-structuring literature as a total order of experience: as the Romantic myth of freedom, equality, wholeness and happiness is a radical reconstruction of imaginative experience in which the entire hierarchy of symbols is displaced, so is the modern myth in its representation of life The



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