Thematic imagery in Lord Byron's Don Juan
Miller, Mary Ann
Dowden, W. S.
Master of Arts
The purpose of the thesis is to define several of Byron's themes in his epic satire, Don Juan, and to demonstrate how they are presented and unified. Several incidents in the poem concentrate on specific themes; the recurring imagery, then, serves both to support these themes and unify the poem. The first chapter, "Mantle of Hypocrisy," establishes the themes of hypocrisy, and of appearance and reality, and shows how clothing and disguise imagery elucidate these themes. Byron's exposure includes particularly the hypocrisy of individuals and society toward love; he also penetrates behind the veneer of virtue in the "puppet-show" of the English cantos, and exposes the false feelings "put on as easily as a hat." Actual disguise is seen in the Julia-Juan affair, the harem scenes, and in the English cantos by the Duchess of Fitz-Fulke, and life as a masquerade is imaged throughout the poem. Chapter two, "Ambrosial Cash," discusses the theme of materialism, showing how money's power causes the poet to sacrifice his integrity, or reduces marriage to a financial transaction, or accelerates the "business of war," or reduces human beings to actual merchandise. Byron's satire of money's unnatural powers centers on attitudes toward love; the actual buying and selling of love occuring in the harem cantos reflects on the "marriage mart" of the ordinary world. That England is gold-dominated is stressed throughout the English cantos. The use of monetary imagery recurs throughout the poem and serves to reinforce these themes. The third chapter, "The Prisoned Eagle," focuses on the harem cantos and the central themes of confinement, suppression, and captivity. The description of the seraglio is symbolic, emphasizing its essential character of enslavement. The effects of tyranny are demonstrated by the contrast between stasis and motion, and the use of marble imagery. The theme of slavery is extended throughout the poem and the effects of both self-imposed and socially-imposed slavery are seen through Byron's use of imagery of slavery and confinement. Chapter four, focusing on the seventh and eighth cantos, concentrates on the theme of the "rather dear pleasure" of war. Byron's abhorrence of wars of conquest is discussed, and the use of repulsive imagery is traced throughout the poem to demonstrate Byron's theme. Thus, "blood and wounds" becomes a keynote of the war cantos, never obscuring war's real horrors. Unnatural nature imagery is also employed to contrast man's bloody creation with God's fiat lux. The use of military imagery occurs throughout the poem, and its use is evaluative because of Byron's specific criticism in the war cantos.