The human condition can be defined as the interpretation of humans in the world, physically and psychologically influenced by the social and political environment. It describes the nature and behaviour of humans, and the habitual developments involved in a human life. Aspects of the human condition are depicted through the poems Mending Wall by Robert Frost and Grandparents by Robert Lowell. Frost uses such techniques as imagery, repetition and irony to convey his ideas of separation in humans and the tendency for humans to hold an invisible barrier between one another.
Lowell’s Grandparents communicates the respect we pay towards the departed family members by use of imagery along with suitable enjambments to extend the understanding of his ideas. Both of the poems associate with the idea of social change and also a few negative qualities of the human condition. Other texts that represent the human condition include The Plodder, an animated cartoon by Michael Leunig, plus the photograph Markets at the Rocks by Gerry North.
The Plodder is a comical animation illustrating life as a journey of oneself, resisting the pressure of conformity, and Markets the Rocks is a photographic representation of the significance of the individual and the right to express oneself. These two texts convey mutual ideas of the resistance of conformity and the appreciation of life; a positive segment of the human condition, contrasting the two abovementioned poems. ‘Something that doesn’t love a wall’ and so begins the poem Mending Wall by Robert Frost.
The first line immediately gives the impression that the speaker is opposed to the idea of constructing a wall. He is yet to explain why he is not so keen on this event, and so it seems that he holds a natural distaste towards fences. This is reflective of the unjustified and irrational prejudice that humans often make based on character and instinct. The poem, looked as a whole, is a single stanza. This technique has been deliberately chosen by Frost to enhance fluency and consequently indicate that the neighbours only meet for a short period of time.
Their relationship is quite distant and the fence between them divides them even further. Therefore Mending Wall mainly deals with the theme of separation; a barrier that builds ironically between people in a relationship. One example of this irony shown in the poem is that the two neighbours get together, in an aim to separate each other by fortifying an unnecessary wall between them and prevent the relationship from getting any closer. The lack of communication between the two is eminent as the neighbour repeats that ‘Good fences make good neighbours,’ and gives no more reason to that.
The persona is confused and becomes impatient with the obtuse idea. He tells the neighbour that his ‘apple trees will never get across / and eat the cones under his pines,’ personifying his possessions to create the sense of trust. The neighbour remains stubborn, uttering the words ‘Good fences make good neighbours. ‘Why do they make good neighbours? ‘ he asks himself in a mocking, uncomprehending tone. Ironically however, the speaker nods on and helps build the wall and only argues in his head ‘Isn’t it where there are cows? But here there are no cows.
‘ A respectable point indeed, yet the neighbour does not hear it. Even if he ‘could put a notion in his head’ the stubborn neighbour would not understand. The persona’s reluctance to accept the neighbour’s reasons of tradition to keep mending the wall also separates them mentally. ‘I see him there, / Brining a stone grasped firmly by the top / In each hand, like an old-stone savage armed. ‘ Frost relates the neighbour to a primitive being , well separate from civilisation in a vivid imagery. This is indicative of the stubborn nature of humans and the resistance to exclude one’s firm perceptions.
A separating wall is built between people in aim to follow traditional ideas, which consequently leads them from the changing society. Robert Lowell talks of death and human condition to mourn for the dead through his poem Grandparents. However, the poem is not only an elegy for his grandmother and grandfather, it is also a commentary on the idea of change in society over time. ‘They’re altogether otherworldly now’, the poem begins, implying that his grandparents have left to another world; they have died.
It also suggests that the elderly were always otherworldly in that they were a little old fashioned to the child. This is indicative of the change in society. ‘Back in my throw-away and shaggy span of adolescence, Grandpa still waves his stick like a policeman’, represents the difference in social status in his relationship. The speaker is much relaxed in his ‘throw-away’ years and the grandpa is authoritarian towards him, yet this is typical, and he finds no problems. ‘Fatigued elm leaves’, this is an example of the first stanza attempting to describe the grandparents as they neared their dying age.
Lowell also writes that they were ‘tired of children’ and now ‘is gone’. By this he implies that they spent an awful lot of time with him and he feels remorseful that he may have behaved out of order. Lowell uses euphemism in ‘They’re all gone into a world of light’, to show the respect he owes to his grandparents. This reflects the respect humans hold for those that have passed away. Through his grandparents’ death, he realises that he has gained sole possession of a respectable farm, as he cries ‘The farm’s my own!
‘ yet he still feels isolated ‘Back there alone’. He’d rather stay put and play billiards in reminiscence of his grandfather. ‘Five green shaded light bulbs spider the billiards-table’, Lowell creates a prestigious imagery of his grandfather’s treasured table through personification of the light bulbs. He values the game more than the field of the farm as he says ‘no field is greener than its cloth’. This juxtaposition of the natural field and artificial green of the table reflects the immobile and indoor character of the aged.