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Analysis and comments on For the Union Dead by Robert Lowell

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Lowell ties in the yet unresolved issues of the Civil War with the mindless
consumerism that grips the nation in his poem, “For the Union Dead”. One
of Lowell’s best-known works, Union Dead is a multi-layered poem set in the
heart of Boston. On the surface, it is an elegy to the heroic
Massachusetts 54. The soldiers fought with valor and moral integrity while
trying to preserve the Union and end slavery. A closer examination reveals
a country that blindly worships Capitalism. Following consumerism alone
has left the country directionless. Lowell watches the steam shovels at
work and comments that avarice is literally and figuratively shaking the
Massachusetts Statehouse, “Parking spaces luxuriate like civic sandpiles in
the heart of Boston. A girdle of orange, Puritan-pumpkin colored girders
braces the tingling Statehouse.” Lowell is nostalgic for the Boston of his
youth and for a country, real or imagined, whose moral integrity was
intact. Lowell is raising an objection to a country that commodifies the
nuclear age, he objects to the new realism; he objects to the triumph of
commercialism over morality, he objects to a country that has forsaken
spirituality for physicality: “On Boylston Street a commercial photograph
shows Hiroshima boiling over a Mosler safe, the “Rock of Ages” that
survived the blast. Space is nearer.” The space that Lowell speaks of is
just that- Nothingness. Extinction of the human race will be the cost if
we cannot move to higher moral ground.

Rob from United States

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Information about For the Union Dead

Poet: Robert Lowell
Poem: For the Union Dead
Volume: Life Studies and For the Union Dead
Year: 1964
Added: Oct 29 2004
Viewed: 1195 times


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