Analysis of the poem "El Desdichado"-Gerard de nerval
Nerval’s poem is placed under the sign of melancholy as shown by the lexical field of sadness: “inconsolable”, “melancholy”, “consoled”, “sorry heart”. The poet is marked by mourning, particularly that of the actress Jenny Colon who died in 1842 and with whom Gérard de Nerval was in love. The metaphor “Ma seule Etoile est morte,” (My only star is dead) equates the beloved woman with a star, a divinization that is fully in line with Romantic poetry. The terms in the first line — “Dark,” “Widower,” and “Unconsolate” are capitalized. These capital letters make the poet an allegory of widowhood and suffering, as if death were indelibly inscribed in his soul. The noun “Widower” is moreover emphasized by its place in the verse: it breaks the rhythm of the alexandrine in (6//2/4), underlining the break that has occurred in the poet’s soul.
The lexical field of the colors accentuates the melancholic atmosphere of the poem: “Tenebrous”, “black”, “pink”, “red”. These are twilight colors that draw a melancholic picture.
- A quest for identity In “El Desdichado”, Gérard de Nerval evokes a quest for identity. The poem opens with the personal pronoun “I” which is the subject of the poem and therefore seems to be well asserted. But the poet’s identity is immediately marked by splintering. First of all, the title of the poem — “El desdichado” — in Spanish, creates an enigmatic impression as if the poet could not define himself with the French language. Then, in the first line, the poet defines himself by three terms that revolve around the theme of mourning: “Dark”, “Widower”, “Unconsolated”. Nerval does not manage to define himself in a single word. The initial statement “I am”, peremptory and almost theatrical, thus gives way to a multiplied identity. Moreover, the dashes in the poem give the impression of an inner dialogue as if the poet were using several voices. This interior polyphony corresponds well to the romantic spirit which privileges the expression of the feelings and the sensitivity. Silencing the unifying voice of reason, Nerval makes the multiple inner voices of the soul heard. The “I” of the poem is thus quickly dispersed. Thus, the affirmative form “I am” gives way to the interrogative form which suggests doubt: “Am I Amour or Phebus? …. Lusignan or Biron? The coordinating conjunction expressing the alternative “…or…” further emphasizes the loss of identity of the poet who does not know who he is. The oxymoron “the Black Sun of Melancholy” further emphasizes the contradiction in which the poet’s identity is lost. Transition: In “El Desdichado”, the identity of the poet is thus dispersed, fragmented. But the poet tries to restore the unity of a self by borrowing multiple identities.