In his poem La Belle Dame Sans Merci, John Keats creates one of the most noticeable and classical uses of the narrative form. While many poems simply employ this form as a means to an end, Keats takes it a step further by actually using the narrative voice to create suspense and help develop the characters in his poem. Keats’ use of this form not only does those things, but it actually helps the reader relate to the main character and his experiences. In this, it is easy to see and understand why the narrative form was chosen from all of the available options that the poet might have otherwise chosen.
From the beginning, this poem is marked by the use of the word “I”. Any and all confusion is avoided right from the start, as the reader knows exactly who is talking and exactly what he is talking about. Another interesting aspect of this particular poem’s use of the narrative form is that it helps create the mood from the beginning. It is essential that the reader knows the plight of the narrator from the beginning, before they even know they rest of the story. The consistent use of narrative form is a way for the poet to create the dramatic tone and allow the reader to follow along more closely.Though narrative form certainly plays an important role in helping the reader grasp the strong themes within the poem, it is even more important in its role as a character explanation tool.
Those who are unfamiliar with the style of John Keats’ poetry can often times have a hard time understanding and following the different characters in the story. This poem, however, uses a very personal tone and promotes understanding of these characters. The narrator himself is the one character who the reader learns the most about as a result of the use of narrative form.The narrator starts out the story talking about how sad and lonely he is, but the reader quickly finds that the narrator is actually a lover that has fallen on hard times. This is where the narrative form is most important, because it allows for a very personable description of why the narrator is interested in the woman. Some of this descriptive language can be found when in the poem when Keats writes, “I met a lady in the meads, / Full beautiful—a faery’s child, / Her hair was long, her foot was light, / And her eyes were wild” (Keats, 11-14).
Immediately, the reader is treated to a picture of the narrator that they can identify with.Love and adulation are two especially common things that most anyone can find a middle ground with, especially given the excellent description. The entire purpose of the narrative form is not only to talk about his love for the woman, though. It continues in the same form all the way to the end, when he finds that he is not anywhere near being the only man who is after her.
John Keats chooses the narrative form in this poem for a number of reasons. On one hand, he wanted to connect his main character with his reader. By using the narrative tone, he is effectively turning the knight into an “everyman”.It would have otherwise been extremely difficult to connect the reader to the character because of the obvious gaps in culture and the different time frame. With the narrative form, Keats brings it to a level that everyone can understand, though.
Though there are not too many things that can transcend hundreds of years, love is one of those things. Another reason why Keats chooses to use the narrative form is simply because it flows more easily. The lyrical, rhyming tone reads like a song. It is a poem that seems like a story read from one person to another. With a narrator to give that story, it would not have the same powerful effect.
Perspective is one of the chief concerns that poets have to deal with when they decide which form they will use. One can assume that Keats wanted to create a very personal perspective, which is why he chose to use the narrative form. As mentioned before, the reader gets to make a connection with all of the characters in the story. In a way, this type of style puts the reader right in the middle of the story. In this particular story, it impacts our perspective in how we feel for the knight. If we were on the outside looking in, then things might be drastically different.
Instead, we feel that we are right there beside him as he goes through his short-lived love for the woman. We feel his pain as he is sitting there and feeling sorry for himself. In a way, it is almost like watching one of your best friends go through a terrible breakup or divorce. This effect can be attributed mostly to the choice of form that Keats opts to use. One passage where this is especially true is when he writes, “And this is why I sojourn here, / Alone and palely loitering, / Though the sedge is wither’d from the lake, / And no birds sing” (Keats, 45-48).
We not only get to experience this, but we have a front row seat to the pity party that the narrator is throwing for himself. This is one of the most important themes in the story and the reader gets to be a huge part of it because of the choice that Keats made. There are not many poems or other literary works out there that are as important in using narrative form as John Keats’ La Belle Dame Sans Merci. The work itself is an interesting one in that the reader gets to be a part of what the Knight is going through.Though the reader could have still gotten a good idea of what was going on if the story was given in another form, a little bit of effect is added because of the first person narrative form that is being used. The poem is a roller coaster of emotion that is packed into a small amount of space.
The reader gets to ride along with the Knight as he makes his way from happiness to sadness. As he goes from the joy of being in love to the sadness of unrequited love, the reader is treated to a slice of those emotions. That is ultimately why the poet chose to use that form in order to create such an interesting and compelling story.