The Lady of Shalott
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson
The Lady of Shalott Theme of Isolation
Whatever else the Lady of Shalott has going on, she's definitely alone. We don't know who shut her away in the castle or why, but it doesn't seem fair. We can tell that she's fed up with it; in fact she even says as much. Her desire to be part of the world, to interact, to love and be loved, is what pushes the whole plot of this poem. The fact that she never really breaks out of her loneliness is what gives "The Lady of Shalott" a tragic edge.
Questions About Isolation
- Do you think the Lady of Shalott escapes her isolation by the end of the poem?
- Does the magic mirror make her seem more isolated or less? Does that little bit of contact with the world make things worse or better?
- Is it better to die or to live the rest of your life alone? Do you think the Lady faces up to that choice? Does she basically commit suicide?
- Do you think the fact that the lady spends her days working alone is a metaphor for the place of women in English society?
Chew on This
The Lady of Shalott makes a confident choice to break free from her isolation. Although it costs her everything, it's still a strong and meaningful refusal of her shadowy, isolated situation.
The Lady of Shalott is engaged in lonely weaving, a traditional mode of women's labor. Her imprisoned isolation is a powerful metaphor for the social, sexual, and intellectual repression of women across English history.