“To The Reader” Analysis The never-ending circle of continuous sin and fallacious repentance envelops the poem “To the Reader” by Baudelaire. The beginning of this poem discusses the incessant dark vices of mankind which eclipse any attempt at true redemption. As the poem progresses, the dreariness becomes heavier by mentioning the Devil and demons, and how Hell is the final stop of everyone’s journey. The ending stanza says the most dangerous of all actions is boredom.
This proposition that boredom is the most unruly thing one can do insinuates that Baudelaire views boredom as a gate way to all horrible things a person can do. The first thing one reads is the title, “To the Reader. ” With this, Baudelaire is not just singling out any individuals or a certain group of people. “Folly, error, sin and parsimony,” (1) everyone possesses these vices, and that is who Baudelaire is addressing. A religious aspect is introduced in lines 5 through 7 stating that although we repent and confess, our sins are obstinate and our repentance feeble because soon after we are back to our wicked ways.
Many religions, such as Christianity and Islam, believe that there is a joyous afterlife for those who have led a righteous lifestyle and have atoned for their sins. However, Baudelaire dismantles this comfort by implying that we repent because we “Believ[e] our base tears can wash away the stains [our sins]” (8). Even with the hint of a religious tone, Baudelaire is still talking to those without a religious affiliation, for no one is perfect and has not apologized for an act they were not sorry they committed.
In class, it was argued that this poem is not actually a religious work because it has no hope and that it is, in fact, just about human nature; I believe it is about both. It is human nature to express regret towards those we have wronged, whether Christian, Muslim, Atheist, or any other denomination. However, those with a religious affiliation are hypocrites; preaching that we must all be without sin and have faith in and obey their respected deity. They, such as Christians, demonstrate hypocrisy through participating in sins themselves.
They think ill thoughts against those who believe something else – judging; speak poorly of others to their friends – gossiping; confess that they did not mean what they said or did – lying. Although we may try to live better with each passing day, our evilness has a stronger resolve. Baudelaire writes “On the pillow of evil Satan Trismegistus / Cradles at length our enchanted soul” (9 & 10) “It is in hateful objects that we find peace / Each day, one step further towards Hell” (14 & 15).
In these four lines, Baudelaire is suggesting that we do unholy or immoral things without noticing; continuing to entertain Gluttony, Pride, or Lust without a second thought, and that our souls are the Devil’s price. There are different levels of intensity to all sins; telling a white lie every now and again is far better than taking another’s life every now and again. For some, the thought of murdering or raping someone is atrocious, nevertheless Baudelaire believes that If rape and poison, arson and the knife Have not yet women their pleasant designs
On the dull canvas of our lowly destinies It is because our soul, alas, is not yet bold enough. (25-28) The Christian religion is hinted here again by the use of women; it was Eve that introduced sin to mankind by eating the forbidden fruit, the pleasant design of sin. These lines are suggesting that appalling crimes are thought about and can be conducted by all, but only the strong willed are able to carry them out. Of all the horrible acts one can commit, Baudelaire suggests that there is one that is most heinous above all the rest, and that is boredom.
Baudelaire states that Boredom is “more ugly, evil, [and] fouler than the rest” (33). Being in a state of boredom can lead to all types of malice and immoral thoughts. When you have time to think, memories of how someone wronged you may appear and you may decide to do wrong back unto him, or perhaps going to the club may seem like a nice way to meet with someone to relieve you of your boredom, etc. Boredom is not just failing to find something to do, but that you are tired of doing the same stuff over and over again.
If one is bored of going to church and hearing the gospel, they could always decide to follow a different religion or drop it altogether. Who can say they are without sin, completely wholly, and truly deserving of a divine afterlife? As previously stated, some believers can be considered hypocrites. People are always preaching that one must practice a better way of living, yet they are deaf to their own sermon. Sin is practiced by all, even those who believe themselves to be above it. Unfortunately, to cast away sin is to cast away human nature, which cannot be done, and as long as boredom lingers around, sin will always follow.
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