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English Literature Essay Sample: A Narrative Analysis

”To Dr. Moore, in Answer to Poetical Epistle Written to me by Him in Wales” by Helen Maria Williams: A Narrative Analysis


The essence of romantic writing lays emphasis over the use of language through various artistic applications. The appeals are in general more rhetorical and prosodic (Bygrave, 1996). Being a British woman poet of Romantic era, the writings of Helen Maria Williams were no different. They too were ornamented with elucidate language and proper use of rhymes and rhythms.

This paper in particular analyses the use of rhetorical and prosodic elements in ”To Dr. Moore, in Answer to Poetical Epistle Written to me by Him in Wales” by Helen Maria Williams. Around 1784, Williams met Dr. John Moore, who was a medical doctor from Glasgow and was like a mentor to her. This is a letter to Dr. John Moore, written in September 1791 and reflecting her point of views in reference to socio-political scenario under the influence of French Revolution. This paper focuses her narrative technique and brings out the elements that express her philosophical ideologies.

Narrative Technique

The narrative technique adopted by Williams is very simple. It is her approach to manage with a simple style of descriptions that makes the text transparent and expresses her ideas clearly (Owens & Johnson, 1998). The techniques used by Williams are interpreted in the paper through her use of rhyme, alliteration, rhythm, metaphor, imagery, tone, word order and specific point of view.

Use of Rhymes

The narrative technique of Helen Maria Williams is very clear and simple. It is not only comprehensible but also very motivating (Romantic Poets 2, 2006). In this epistle to Dr. John Moore, she begins with

While in long exile far from you I roam

To soothe my heart with images of home, (1791, lines, 1-2)

These lines elaborate the attachment that Williams has for Dr. Moore and how they share common Scottish background. The initial approach of the epistle starts with the words that rhyme with each other and continues till the end. The rhymes are all perfect masculine rhymes marked by stresses at the last syllables; as in ‘roam’ and ‘home’; grace/trace, shades/ glades, below/brow, and it continues through out the narration. It is important to mark that no where in the text, she misses a single rhyming couplet. There seems to have enough yet spontaneous effort led by the poet in determining the rhyme scheme of the poem. The interesting part of the applied rhyme scheme is that they are all rhymed on the basis of sound and not spellings and are equally in couplets.


It is through alliteration that the poet adds the spirit of poetic style to the narration. The text has both assonance and consonance. Equal importance has been given to the rhythmic persuasion and thus the vowel and consonants are repeated in the sentences. As for assonance, the repetitive ‘a’ sound can be marked in the following line;

And age and childhood lent their feeble aid.

In the similar way the use of consonance has been followed to add enough rhythm to the narration. The application of consonance can be marked by the repetitive use of ‘s’ in

Some self-respect, some energy of thought,

Williams’ dealings with alliteration make the narration more close to emotional expressions and add sensitiveness to the entire approach that motivates the reader to a great extent.

Rhythmic Persuasions

The regular variations in the length and the use of accentuation of words add rhythm to the lines. There are regular distributions of ‘stressed’ and ‘unstressed’ syllables in each line.

Oppression’s cruel hand shall dare no more

To seize its tribute from his scanty store;

And from his famish’d infants wring the spoils,

Too hard-earn’d produce of his useful toils; (1791, lines, 27-30)

As in this line we can mark the rhythm by using accents to every alternate syllable and un-stressing every other syllable. In addition to that the rhymes add the sense of breaking the reading format on regular basis, and that brings in rhythm to the text. With excellent rhythm to the entire text and makes the reader moves through with the sense of musical flow.

Metaphorical Representations

The metaphorical representations used in this narration are related to the torturous consequences of war and rebels. The losses of life and the sufferance of people in general are all represented through various the personification of feudalism. Feudal government has been declared responsible for all the chaotic social sequences and thus are represented by the use of words like; ‘Gothic pile’ and ‘hostile tower’. Since the brutalities re all due to mismanaged political structure, it has been also called ‘fabric fight’ as if they are planned to achieve political powers by the leaders of the state.

The metaphor can be also identified in the entire structure of the epistle. As the epistle begins the mood of the poet gets represented through the scenic beauty and the elaborations of nature and its capacity to relief one’s soul. It is here that the places like Wales and Scotland are been represented through the freshness of nature and vegetation and the nostalgic flights. However, as the epistle starts getting personal the poet gets engrossed in the socio-political scenario of France and starts describing her emotions through the sufferance and pain of human being in unconditional inhuman sequence.


The imagery used by Williams is totally about the political uprisings of 1980’s. As the poet sees the political interventions into the power gaining structure, she gets frustrated by it. In a very strong way, she describes the consequences of French Revolution. She even recalls the massacre in Incas and there is an atmosphere created to exhilarate the sense of responsibility for all those people who are suffering from injustice. She declares that martyrs, unlike their brutal attackers; were full of strength and were much filled with enthusiasm. She even made indirect appeals to the readers to feel the pain that are getting obvious to the lives of layman.

As a matter of fact there are two imageries used in the epistle. One is that of joy, light and life,

Where bending with their luscious weigh, recline

The loaded branches of the clust’ring vine;

whereas the other is about grief, darkness and death, as in

The winding labyrinths, the hostile towers,

Whence danger threatens, and where horror lowers; (1791, lines, 51-52)

Tone of the Text

The tone of the text is though personal yet is formal in structure. Since Dr. Moore was like a mentor to Williams, she always dealt with him with respect. There is a sense of intimate expressions made by Williams and they are to represent her torturous mind against all odds. Since Moore provides emotional and mental support to Williams, she depends a lot on him.

There are regular shift of tones in the epistle. In the beginning it is playful and joyous, whereas to the middle it shifts to socio-political restlessness and expresses ironical roles of feudal system. By the end of the tone gets personal and refers back to Dr. Moore.

Word Order

The syntactic constituents of the language used in this epistle are very regular and straightforward. The typology is basically in conversational mode. Though the by use of poetic elements there is musical intonation in the text, yet the SVO, that is Subject-Verb-Object structure of the language remains consistent. Just like any personal letter there are syntactic use of emotions and expressions. Use of word orders like ‘joy of tears’ represents the sensitive use of the amalgamated nouns ‘joy’ and ‘tear’. On individual speculation they can have different meanings, but when combined together, they mean the happiness per excellence.

Point of View

The point of view of this text is very positive. The author uses first person point of view to elaborate practical instances and the attached emotional strings. As it is an epistle the existence of the other person, that is Dr. John Moore can be well felt. In her approach Williams is very bold. With an open mind she explores the wider world and at the same time doesn’t hesitate to proclaim her regrets towards the socio-political inhuman activities (Romantic Poets 1, 2006). There is a clear link between the politics, society, culture, sensibility and religion. She approached social and political reformation agenda with the need for awareness about human sufferance, along with moral responsibility towards the same.


It can be concluded that Helen Maria Williams’ ‘To Dr. Moore, in Answer to Poetical Epistle Written to me by Him in Wales is definitely rich in the use of figures of speech. There are various contexts used to represent the real life situations. These are further interwoven in various rhetorical and prosodic sequences, to reveal the emotional and sensitive demands of the text. With personal levels of interactions the entire text communicates well with the reader. It is also successful enough in creating the sense of responsibility among the readers towards the inhuman activities prevalent in society.


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