Mr. Flood's Party by Robinson
When used correctly, symbolism and irony can be very effective. Edwin Arlington Robinson is a master of symbolism, and uses irony like no poet before or after him could even conceive to. In Mr. Flood's Party Robinson uses symbolism to forewarn his readers of Mr. Flood's inevitable death. The irony saturates the poem and sets the reader up for an unexpectedly non-ironic conclusion. Robinson relies on irony and symbolism to better illustrate the old man drinking and talking to himself as he walks home from Tilbury Town on an autumn night.
Edwin Arlington Robinson was born in Head Tide, Maine, on Dec. 22, 1869. He grew up in nearby Gardiner, which became the basis for the Tilbury Town of his poems. Some historians say that for many months after his birth his parents called him "the baby" because his parents had not wanted to have a boy. The name Edwin was pulled from a hat by a stranger at the local tavern who happened to live in Arlington, Massachusetts. Robinson hated his name, for it signified to him that he was unwanted by his parents and unimportant to them as well. Robinson described his childhood as stark and unhappy; he once wrote in a letter that he remembered wondering why he had been born at the age of six. After high school, Robinson spent two years studying at Harvard University as a special student and his first poems were published in the Harvard Advocate. Robinson privately printed and released his first volume of poetry, The Torrent and the Night Before, in 1896 at his own expense; this collection was extensively revised and published in 1897 as The Children of the Night. Unable to make a living by writing, he got a job as an inspector for the New York City subway system. In 1902 he published Captain Craig and Other Poems. This work received little attention until President Theodore Roosevelt wrote a magazine article praising it and Robinson. Roosevelt also offered Robinson a sinecure in a U.S. Customs House, a job he held from 1905 to 1910. Robinson dedicated his next work, The Town Down the River (1910), to Roosevelt (Adventures 479).
The first word of the poem is "old" (line 1). This was showing that Mr. Flood had lived for a relatively long time. Also his name "Eben" (line 1) sounds like ebb, which means to return or fall back from a better to a worse state; to decline; to decay; to recede. It is obvious that Mr. Flood's life was receding from what it once was a "Flood" (line 1) of friends, and happiness.
Furthermore, Robinson created an obvious symbol when he referenced Mr. Flood being alone climbing, "over the hill between the town below, and the forsaken upland hermitage, that held as much as he should ever know," this is clear reference to Mr. Flood's age and to his impending death (lines 1-4). When Robinson discusses the fact that Mr. Flood...