Performative Masculinity in “Mid-Term Break”

In class we talked about the performative nature of the men inside the house welcoming the adolescent into the adult and masculine process of ¬†grieving, signaled by shaking his hand and saying that they were “sorry for my trouble.” While this in and of itself is a pivotal moment in the youth’s life, as he is accepted into the performative ritual o being a man. It would seem that he has no choice in this matter, as we all inevitably grow old and must come to accept it. We didn’t focus on the speaker’s father in class and I think that he adds a really important dimension to the speakers concept of masculinity in the poem. When the adolescent arrives home for the funeral, “In the porch I met my father crying.” I think this is important because as an adolescent the speaker is still trying to figure out what is is to be a man, and his father is giving him an alternative option to the performative alternative going on inside the house. It is also important that his father is essentially on the outside as he is displaying his emotions and breaking the ‘code’ of masculinity, therefore he is not a part of the inclusive masculine community on the inside of the house. This scenario creates a disconnect with the speaker’s father that has been seen previously in other poems. Perhaps this lack of leadership on how to react in a time of tragedy in a masculine fashion and leaving the adolescent boy to learn from other men how to perform is a reason for this apparent disconnect between the speaker and his father.

 

Yeats and the Courtly Love Tradition Parallels the Use of Dreams

As mentioned in class Yeats’ poem “He wishes for the Cloths of Heaven” is abnormally formal and ironically the last poem he wrote before becoming aware of Maud Gonne’s relationship in France. The poems harkens a likeness to the courtly love tradition that requires an unattainable goal (Gonne) and the attempt to win said “prize” over with thoughtfully crafted rhetoric and often (empty) promises. This poem fits the bill perfectly, although it is interesting that the word “poor” in line 6 stands out so profoundly, as the courtly love tradition was often practiced by a noble class in which the woman was of affluence and the man, usually a knight or of a lower status. This forbidden aspect of love is what creates the possibility and excitement associated with the courtly love tradition and corresponds accordingly with the Yeats/Gonne relationship (or lack there of). It seems that Yeats already recognizes that he cannot gain Maud in reality and therefore can only attain her in his dreams, or through mysticism, the only gateway that Maud ever allowed their relationship to exist and so it would only be natural for Yeats to offer her his dreams, as they are more valuable to Yeats than any reality ever could be. This is crucial to maintaining Maud as a symbol, for in a dream she can continue to represent whatever Yeats wishes, it keeps her at a safe distance, which is the same end goal of the courtly love tradition.