(The male equivalent of) Damsel in Distress

“I am not a romantic man, Bob… I never read a line of poetry in my life that was any more to me than so many words and so much jingle; but a feeling has come over me since my wife’s death, that I am like a man standing upon a long low shore, with hideous cliffs frowning down upon him from behind, and the rising tide crawling slowly but surely about his feet. It seems to grow nearer and nearer every day, the black, pitiless tide; not rushing upon me with a great noise and a mighty impetus, but crawling, creeping, stealing, gliding towards me, ready to close in above my head when I am least prepared for the end.”

 

George says he “is not a romantic man” and has “never read a line of poetry in [his] life that was any more to [him] than so many words”. In other words, George acknowledges himself as never having experienced emotion on such as deep level as he does now over the loss of his wife.

He proceeds to explain the feeling, “I am like a man standing upon a long low shore, with hideous cliffs frowning down upon him from behind, and the tide crawling slowly but surely about his feet.” Perhaps the cliffs frowning down upon him from behind symbolize the moments he neglected to have and take advantage of when his life was behind. Opportunities that now taunt him. Or perhaps they symbolize people in his life, such as his father and law, who he imagines places blame on George for leaving. Whichever the literal symbolization, this analogy shows George’s sense of guilt, a huge contributing factor to the intense gloom he is currently overtaken with.

He then elaborates on the “tide” analogy, saying, “It seems to grow nearer and nearer every day, that black, pitiless tide; not rushing upon me with a great noise and a mighty impetus, but crawling, creeping, stealing, gliding towards me, ready to close in above my head when I am least prepared for the end.” This part of his explanation indicates another huge contributing factor to George’s depressive state: fear. Whether George fears the intensity of the emotional distress that slowly continues to consume him or the recollections of all that he has lost or missed with his wife as a result of his past action that he continues to gain is questionable. I’d assume it’s a mixture of both: truly a recipe for mental darkness and a state of emotional desperation.

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