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Analysis

Hugh Selwyn Mauberley Setting

Where It All Goes Down

The setting of this one is pretty much all over the place. In lines 61 to 93, we're watching young men die on a bloody field. But on lines 357 to 381, we're suddenly chilling out on a tropical island. So what gives? Well, to figure out what's happening in this poem, you really need to know that all these "places" in the poem are actually places inside the mind of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley. The fields of World War I don't just come from personal memories; they're a symbolic setting for the meaninglessness of dying for the "botched civilization" of Europe (89).

The tropical island toward the end of the poem also isn't so much a real place as a symbol of the temptation Mauberley feels to stop struggling as an artist and to just give in to life's simple pleasures, "Washed in the cobalt of oblivions" (365). Mauberley may or may not have an actual island he wants to run away to, but the island itself is more like a mental space that represents the calm Huey could feel if he just gave up on his artistic quest for beauty. So basically, it's always good to treat every part of this poem's setting not so much as a physical place, but a symbolic space inside Mauberley's imagination.

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