AD's English Literature : Impression of the Traveler in Walter De La Mare’s “The Listeners”

Impression of the Traveler in Walter De La Mare’s “The Listeners”

The traveler in Walter De La Mare’s The Listeners has been presented as a representative from the world of men, who has come to the abode of spirits. But instead of giving full details about him, the poet has drawn him simply with a few suggestive touches, so that there is a lot of vagueness about this nocturnal traveler. He has undertaken a somewhat challenging journey to a lonely house in the midst of a forest at the dead of night, to keep his promise. This indicates that he is a man of word, who knows how to honour an appointment, and that he is a courageous and dauntless sort of person, not at all afraid of meeting unearthly creatures at unearthly hours, at a place far away from human habitation.

No physical description is given of the traveler except that he has ‘grey eyes’. According to some critics, he is as unreal as the phantom listeners themselves, and his total lack of fear in that strange situation marks him as an exceptional being. The mysterious ‘grey eyes’ of his, have something like a supernatural suggestion in them. However, the perplexity that he feels when in spite of repeated knocking, no answer is forthcoming, marks him out as a normal human being.

But the strange thing about his character is that even after feeling sure that instead of living beings only ghosts were listening to him from inside the house, he is determined to address the very phantoms and give his message to them : “Tell them I came” etc. He is doing here something that a man would scarcely have the courage to do. By his repeated efforts at establishing a communion, with the spirit world, he becomes a symbolic figure, a sort of bridge between the world of men and the world of phantoms, an explorer who tries to shake and break the barrier that separates the two worlds.

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