Marching Through a Novel' Poem Analysis

Most writers refuse to give up on their writing no matter how difficult it becomes. This is mostly due to the character-creation process. For writers, characters are like their children. Characters live very deep inside a writer’s mind and once a character comes to life, the writer feels the need to polish them until achieving perfection. In ‘Marching Through a Novel’ poem analysis the perfect example is observed. Updike uses figurative language, diction, and syntax to portray the novelist as a God-like figure who seeks to create the perfect character, but at the same time doubts about his abilities of doing his characters justice in novels. The author going through these struggles, makes the relationship with his characters very complex.

Updike uses the first half of the poem to describe his characters’ feelings toward him. With the use of imagery, he begins his poem by comparing himself to a general and the characters to an army. In lines 1-4 Updike states: “Each morning my characters greet me with misty faces willing, though chilled…”. Just like a wartime soldier, his characters seem exhausted and beaten. However, despite their exhaustion, his characters are loyal and are there to see “another day’s progress”. They are still standing and waiting to go “through the dazzling quicksand, the marsh of blank paper” and more importantly they do this “with instant obedience”. It is evident that his characters are willing to forget about the negative side of his “general”, and continue with him. The characters relying on Updike for guidance, reveals Updike’s role as a creator.

Through the use of diction and syntax, Updike is able to create a darker mood with a tone of helplessness. Stronger words such as “bandages unravel” and “trench work” help the author accomplish this task. Throughout the poem, Updike introduces the reader to the setting by revealing his insecurities about creating the perfect characters. He says “They extend skeletal arms…look toward me hopefully, their general and quartermaster, for a clearer face, a bigger heart…”. It seems like Updike wants to help his characters, but is unable to do this. This idea highlights the complexity of the relationship between the novelist and the characters in the novel. For instance, he adds in lines 19-20: “I do what I can for them, but it is not enough…”. Additionally, the author uses repetition with the word forward to show his devotion to his characters even as he marches them to their demise.

In conclusion ‘Marching Through a Novel’ analysis, we can observe that Updike uses diction, syntax and figurative language to describe how he battles to capture the essence of his characters’ personalities, but cannot deliver what they all desire. Updike wants to share with the reader that his characters are truly like his children; he is very devoted to them. However, when the time comes, he recognizes that some characters have to go away. The saddest part is that he is able to share with the reader what his characters feel when they recognized that his “creator” is marching them to their end.  

08 December 2022
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