Ambiguity In James R. Kincaid's The Lady Of Shallot

Amazing Essays
Within “The Lady of Shallot”, James R. Kincaid argues that through the contrasting elements of fiction and reality, negative results occur as a means of drawing attention to the perpetual uncertainty within Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem, “The Lady of Shallot”. This level of ambiguity is emphasized within the text through the Lady’s lack of agency, causing the events of the poem to be enacted on her rather than through her own devise. Kinkaid pushes forth the idea that the text removes the Lady’s ability to make decisions as a means of making her fate predetermined and “deemphasizing the image of a personality” to use her as a conduit for the plot of the poem to encircle (n.p.). The question of identity is a key issue in Tennyson’s piece, placing …show more content…
3-6). This is representative of the fact that there is no level of firmness in the fate of the Lady. Throughout the text there is a sense of “mystery and potential tragedy of the Lady's story” showing a future that is presented only as hypothetical and yet acts also as a controlling factor in her life (Kincaid, n.p). Within the tower that the Lady resides in there is a “mirror” in which “Shadows of the world appear”, presenting the image of the surrounding world as being a reflection of reality rather than a direct source (Tennyson, II. 10&12). The mirror is a substantial symbol due to the fact that images appearing in a reflected state are reversed, and as a result distorted to some degree, representing the fact that the shadows the Lady is perceiving as reality are a “a picture of the world that is both true and false” (Kincaid, n.p.) This means that the only known detail of the curse are blurred further because the curse could perhaps occur if the Lady watches Camelot through the reflection of the mirror, or if she moves to look directly from the window. And so, without any clear action that will enact the curse “the Lady must obey and must defy” it no matter what action she takes (Kincaid, n.p.). As a …show more content…
Kincaid’s theory of the importance of identity in the text is extremely useful because it sheds light on the fact that the Lady is represented as lacking an identity and merely having fate enacted upon her as a passive plot device. And yet, the argument that Lancelot is an image of idealized personality rests upon the questionable assumption that the Lady’s views of the outside world are representations of reality. Instead, I believe that Lancelot is instead an illustration of the Lady’s disconnection with reality in a text that cannot free her from the confines of her future. This interpretation challenges the work of those critics who have long assumed that the visions of the Lady were actually occurring despite the continual distortions of reality. Therefore, Tennyson’s “The Lady of Shallot” represents a world in which fiction are one and the same and merely in need of

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