A Triumphent Withdrawal Essay, Research Paper
A Triumphent Withdrawal
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain-and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
Acquainted with the night, by Robert Frost
Anthology of American Literature (1010)
Edward A. Robinson was the first most important poet of the Twentieth Century. He is a
“peoples poet” his poems’ characters often provide “physiological portraits” of fictional and
historical characters suffering an isolation of some sort (990). Robinson is considered a
transitional figure; he is the precursor of Modernist poetry. He uses the older traditional
influences of form and rhyme and his poems are often simple and neat. However, in juxtaposition
of these old and highly stylistic forms, he uses personal subject matter in the make-up of his
characters. The use of these very personal experiences is what contributes to the intrigue that
most readers feel when reading his poems. The imagery of these characters’ problems and the
traditional form which feels like poetry to the average reader, is what creates Robinson’s style.
In addition, even though most of his poems are about country men or women who are limited in
terms of education and world knowledge, they are representative of the human experience. This
helps to prevent Robinson, who is from New England, from being pegged as a regionalist writer.
The theme of this poem is very much in keeping with Robinson’s style of writing. He introduces
the reader to the deep and darker side of the characters, thereby giving us a view of their
humanness. Then, in true modernist fashion we are left to resolve the conundrums these views
present to us, on our own. Mr. Floods Party is a perfect example of this type of work.
Eben Flood is a character whose memories ebb and flow just like the tide, a loner who is
content with the fact that his memories are his most cherished friends. A man who likes his own
company better than the company of others., he likes himself as he has developed through the
years. The company of strangers or his remaining peers do not compare to the ones of the days of
old. Eben can contemplate his life, his contemporaries, and have a few drinks without listening to
what others have to say. I believe he is alone because he wants to be alone. His “scarred hopes
out worn”,(18) he has chosen to stand in the “middle of the road” of life deciding not to go
further(19). He has made a choice to remain solitary and has become alienated with his “jug” as
his only friend (14). Mr. Flood climbs to the top of the hill to sit with this companion and
physiologically he has alienated himself from the town and what friends it may contain. He sits
and talks to his drink as if the drink was a long lost friend, telling it his woes and complaining to
this silent and non-condemning listener. Mr. Flood appears to be a solitary, crotchety man of
advanced age who is alone, and perhaps an imbiber of drink by nature. A man who is closer to
the end than the beginning of his life, Eben sits alone upon the hill, reflecting upon and
celebrating the past years of his life, and accepting the fact that he “may not have many more”(10).
To me this is a poem more about acceptance rather than loss and sorrow or bitterness.
Through the use of the drink Mr. Flood is not forsaken, he is in the past with “friends of
other days”, and these friends seem to be all the company he needs at the moment (22). Perhaps
he is dying and reminiscing that he is old and all his friends have passed away before him.
Depending on the reader’s age and station in life, this poem could be interpreted in many ways.
As young college students, the poem could appear as a morose and melancholy piece of
work. Mr. Flood is alone, apparently without family or friends. As young students this might
seem depressing. They have their whole lives before them, they have many dreams and
aspirations that have yet to be explored. They could not possibly understand the contentment
Eben Flood would feel as he reflected back on both his victories and sorrows. I do think that
young readers would enjoy the cadence of this poem and the word play, but would find it hard to
understand Eben’s choice to be isolated.
Speaking as an older student I can feel the tug of Mr. Flood’s emotions as he reviews his
past, because I, too, have a past that has both victories and sorrows. I understand sometimes the
need to sit and reflect but unlike Mr. Flood I anticipate that I have more time to live. Therefore, I
still feel the need of company, be it of new friends or old ones. In addition, with the maturity of
age, I am able to recognize in others this acceptance of their own mortality, and see how they
cloak it around themselves and wear it with dignity.
To the older people reading this poem, maybe it would feel comfortable, like an old pair of
shoes. They would have understood Mr. Flood’s references to the “many a change” (34) and
would also feel that they too”may not have many more” years ahead of them (10). They would get
enjoyment out of these words that express and accept the knowledge of what has been and of
what is now left. The aloneness would be one of the things with which they just live because
their contemporaries have passed on and any new found friends may be younger or they are a
surface level relationship. They could empathize with Mr. Flood because in some way all human
beings have their own “jug”(51) with which to sing “auld lang syne”(42) and when that toast is
done they, too, are “again alone”(52) as Mr. Flood finds himself to be. This acceptance is a means
of survival, sometimes you must become your own best friend because you are the only one who
knows you anymore.
“Mr. Flood’s Party” seems to present two worlds, a world of illusion and a world
of reality. It is a long poem with a complex stanza, it uses heightened language and gives Mr.
Flood emotional and intellectual depth by the use of images and illusions to the past. The central
theme is the fleeting passage of our lives and the use of the jug is a symbolic representation of
past friends. Presumably, when he was younger, he would eat, drink, and be merry with his
friends. Now his only friend left to share his life is his “jug”(27). He treats the jug with utmost
respect,” as a mother” (25) would a child, and like it was a living thing ” he set the jug down”
because he knows “that most things break”(28). This is important because the bond with all of his
family and friends has been broken by their deaths
So this jug is the last link that connects him to his past, friends, and family. He does not want that
broken, too. He can sit, sip, and reminisce about the ghost that is his past. With the jug beside
him, Eben Flood re-creates his past world and no longer has need of the present one. Perhaps,
symbolically, the jug represents Mr. Flood’s life and once it breaks, he will no longer exist, his life
on earth will be over.
I know from several class discussions that the use of the jug and drinking was seen as
perhaps Mr. Flood’s way of coping with the present world and his past, and the fact that he is
forsaken is seen as an excuse or the reason that he now drinks. The drink has become his only real
surviving friend, the only one that has not left him alone in this world. Mr. Flood’s Party is now
over. When someone has a party, he generally invites other human beings for companionship. At
this party, laughs, hopes, dreams, wishes, and promises would be shared. Now, Mr. Flood’s life
seems over, so he has turned to his jug which represents all that is his past, true or broken, and
this becomes his party, his future, his life. Mr. Flood, who is like a ghost in a no-man world,
raises his jug like “a silent horn” and like “Roland’s ghost” blows his last triumphant salute to the