Four-part Structures

Drawing upon Tennyson's remark that he had organized the poem by means of the three celebrations of Christmas it records, A. C. Bradley ("The Structure of In Memoriam," in Robert Ross, ed., In Memoriam, New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1973) and E. D. H. Johnson ("In Memoriam: The Way of the Poet," in Robert Ross, ed., In Memoriam, New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1973) pointed out the presence of the following structures:

1. (1-27) Despair: ungoverned sense (subjective)
2. (28-77) Doubt: mind governing sense, i.e., despair (objective)
3. (78-102) Hope: spirit governing mind, i. e. doubt (subjective)
4. (103-31) Faith: spirit harmonizing sense and spirit (objective)

The four-part division in relation to Tennyson's theory of poetry:

1. Poetry as release from emotion
2. Poetry as release from thought
3. Poetry as self-realization
4. Poetry as mission (or prophecy)

Nine-part Structures

The poet also explained to a friend (Knowles) that the poem had nine natural groups of sections: 1-8, 9-20, 21-27, 28-44, 45-58, 59-71, 72-93, 94-103, 104-131. Can you sum up or characterize the organizing principle of each group?

Motif Structures

Structure of motifs created by paired sections, such as 2 and 39, 7 and 119, and so on, and by repetition of images, metaphors, and paradigms, including hand, door, ship, time, and dream.

Structure Created by Epiphanies

Patterns of conversion, turning points, and climaxes: 95, one of the longer sections of IM, contains its most famous climax and moment of conversion, but it is only one of several, for those sections concerning poetry and the role of poetry, the fate of his sister, and the conflict of science and religion all have their contributory climactic structures.

Structure created by Scriptural and Evolutionary Types

Patterns provided by types, biblical and biological (see sections 1, 12, 33, 53-56, 82, 85, 103, 118, 123, 131). Playing upon two competing means of the term type, Tennyson parallels and contrasts the biological and the religious. Although he admits that man as a type (species) may well disappear like the dinosaur, a fossil in the iron hills, he finds in Hallam a type (prefiguration) of both the reappearance of Christ and of the higher form (species, type) of humanity — a reassurance that time, evolution, and human life have meaning.


Victorian Website Overview Alfred Lord Tennyson In Memoriam

Last modified 20 February 2010