Themes in The Collar

Submission and personal freedom

The main theme concerns the conflict between submission to God and the desire for personal freedom. The trouble is that the constraints seem here to be from within the poet.

       forsake thy cage,
Thy rope of sands

expresses this marvellously. The cage and rope are of his own making in terms of his conscience ‘what is fit, and not'. The words are put in italics because they represent words spoken in some inner dialogue. The constraints of conscience may also have been a sense of vocation, or a calling being given him by God, which he sees as further restriction on his own career ambitions or desire for pleasure.

Loss of direction

The theme that accompanies this is that of Incoherence and fragmentation. His life has lost direction, meaning and productivity, as in Affliction I. He feels that it can regain direction ‘On double pleasures', the reader may doubt whether this is going to work. There are just too many desperate, fragmented questions being asked for us to be confident that this is the right direction in which to find coherence. And of course, it isn't.

Investigating The Collar
  • Consider the themes identified in The Collar
    • Can you see any other theme of significance in the poem?
      • Which words or phrases draw attention to it?
      • Which words and phrases suggest captivity?
      • Which ones suggest freedom?
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