Sympathy Misplaced?


"Among Keats's readers the sympathy is usually for the would-be ravisher, not for the potential victim." Garson p 456

I can't believe I didn't think of this!!! Honestly, for how many times I have read "Ode on a Grecian Urn," it never struck me strange that I felt so bad for the guy you couldn't "ravish" the woman of his desire. I would actually like to get opinions from you guys on this one. Do you think Keats wanted us be feel sympathy for a possible rapist?

I don't think that is his point, but after reading this aspect of Garson's article I started looking at the poem in a different way. Why do we feel sorry for the would-be ravisher? Is it because Keats uses aesthetics to glorify the subject matter on the urn?

Some times I can't help but hate these articles because they change my opinion on the literature in negative ways. I don't want to think about my sympathy towards a possible rapist. I wish sometimes I could just stay in my own little literary world. Now I'm just babbling, so please let me know what you think about this quote and Keats's intentions.

Go back to Garson


Bethany, I understand why you might not like the articles influencing your opinion of the texts, yet at the same time one of the main parts of new historicism is being aware of how you read the poem and why. Therefore, we need to consider why we sympathize with the “rapist.” Now, as for Keats, I highly doubt he was trying to justify rape or make us think rape is ok. I don’t really have much of a justification for why I think that though. I mean I can definitely see what Garson is claiming, yet I still don’t think Keats is condoning rape.

I think that we may feel sympathetic to the would-be-rapist because Keats puts the action so lightly. We don't really think of the crime. It is really described as more of a game, not an act of violence so it definately has to do with the connotation. Think if Keats had said, "Come back pretty lady with the hot bod, I want to have my way with you whether you like it or not." Now how do you feel? lol

I do agree with you that this critical essays that we have been reading do change our outlook on the works that we read in class. Your presentation last week and the article we read on the yellow wallpaper this week totally changed my view of the yellow wallpaper, in a good way.
Anyways, I never thought about looking at the urn that way before. I'm going to opposed Greta and Angela, but is there any possiblity that Keats could have been ok with Rape, I mean we really don't know that much about him, and he died fairly young. Maybe at that time, or even within his own society people possibly didn't do anything about rape when it happend. Sorry, had to be devil's advocate.

Bethany, I completely understand your frustration; however, I think that the arguments we don't agree with may be the most valuable at all. I think we gain more clarity and conviction in our arguments when faced with opposition rather than simply finding agreement. Think of a teenager who believes in a particular religion simply because his or her parents do and contrast that person with a teen who has chosen a religion based on their own personal exploration. While many teens might end up choosing the religion their parents followed, their choice is strengthened by their exploration of other opposing faiths. Through agreement, we can only develop what we already think; however, through opposition, we can identify what we haven't thought about before and either agree with it, further developing our argument to include a new concept, or refute it, subsequently strengthening our original convictions. So while we may not like arguments such as Garson's because it causes us to question our original beliefs about the ode, ultimately, regardless of whether we agree with it, are own interpretations can be improved/strengthened by reading it. Arguments such as Garson's muddy the waters of interpretation and force us to swim blindly for a bit; in a sense, such arguments cause us to step back from the lens we currently view the text from and stand briefly behind another. By displacing ourselves from our personal lens of choice, we can view our arguments (including its faults) from the perspective of an outsider. Paradoxically, our personal beliefs are often improved only after others chip away at them.

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