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THE MAN AND THE ECHO BY W. B. YEATS.
  1. ‘The Man and the Echo’ was written in 1938, just before Yeats’ death. Adding to importance of this poem as it has developed due to many life experiences.
  2. References to other literature/mythology – The setting for the poem, “In a cleft that’s christened Alt/ Under broken stone I halt” alludes to or parodies the journey to the Oracle of Delphi – a priestess at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, the most prestigious and authoritative oracle in the ancient Greek world. “There is no release/ In a bodkin or disease” – Refers to Hamlet’s ‘To be or not to be’ speech : “For who would bear the whips and scorns of time,/ Th’oppressor’s wrong… When he himself might his quietus make/With a bare bodkin?” (http://aterriblebeautyisborn.com/the-man-and-the-echo/)
  3. This poem includes an ironic dialogue between the Man and the Echo to argue the impossibility of controlling the interpretation of a voice that creates an irresolvable internal conflict between a persons body and soul.
  4. The Man is guilt-ridden (elderly writer) that goes to the “bottom of the pit” to reflect on his life and mentally prepare for death, but becomes distracted by the Echo.
  5. The reference to nature at the end of the poem acts as a metaphor. The “stricken rabbit” might represent Yeats whilst “its cry distracts my thought” might represent the poet’s own echo.
  6. One poem which links well with this poem is “Sailing to Byzantium” where Yeats describes himself as being “fastened to a dying animal” although here Yeats is more hopeful of what death may bring, in “Man and the Echo” the poet fears death and believes, or wishes, that death brings nothingness . However in both in irrevocably returns to nature.
  7. The Man desperately wants to unite his spirit and body in order to die peacefully, but his distraction with his echo prevents him from doing so. He is haunted by a sense of unknowing about questions of life, philosophy and his own past – as he can “never get the answers right.”
  8. The Man doesn’t have control over the way in which the reader interprets his words and he fears that his word’s “put too great strain” on people’s minds, failing to understand his intentions altogether. Regardless of how carefully the Man writes his words down, a reader’s interpretation of these words can alter their intended meaning as easily as Echo alters his spoken voice. Even if Man writes with a good or specific goal in mind, there is no guarantee that readers will understand or act upon his intentions, and even if they do he has no way of knowing this.
  9. The Echo is conveyed as an individual voice rather than a possession or derivative of the Man’s voice. The Man’s inability to control Echo parallels his inability to control how readers interpret and react to his written works and emphasizes the disconnect between the Man and his voice. The Echo takes his words out of context, changing they’re meaning and representing the lack of control one has over their words one they have been spoken. Yeats (The Man) argues against the echo emulating his frustration at the misinterpretation, manipulation and misuse of his works by others. The discord between Yeats and his echo shows the conflict of thoughts within himself as the echo is only an extension of himself, his words and ideas repeated back to him.
  10. The poem’s setting in an isolated cave which reflects the Man’s effort to control the consequences of his voice. Each opening line brings the Man farther and farther away from people who could hear his words and change their intended meaning. Not only is Man “in a cleft,” but he is “under broken stone” and “at the bottom of a pit that broad noon has never lit”. The Man has taken great lengths to be alone and avoid the risk of having his words heard and manipulated. His retreat into a deep, dark, isolated cave reflects his desire to introspect and connect with his spirit, but he cannot escape the implications of his voice.

 

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