The Lunatic: Laxmi Prasad Devkota - Summary and Critical Analysis

In this autobiographical poem The Lunatic, Devkota wears the persona of a lunatic as if it were a mask. Each stanza brings out a different aspect of the speaker’s character, confidence, abnormality, imagination, sensitivity, rebellion, aggression, anger and awful majesty.

Laxmi Prasad Devkota

Above all, this poem is at once a very modern expression of the deepest personal feelings of the poet and a surgical exposure of the hollowness of the so called intellectual aspirants of the time. The persona in the second stanza shows abnormal behavior. He does what a normal person can’t do. For example, he can see sound and hear the sight and taste the sweet smell. He can touch those things, the existence of which the people in the world deny. He is so imaginative that he can see a flower on the stone and the enchantress of the heaven smiling into him. He understands the language of the birds and talks to them.

The third stanza shows how sensitive and tender-hearted he is. He contrasts his situation with the addresses. The addressee is the one who uses his brains and senses to find out the harsh reality. But the speaker uses his sixth sense and finds out what the heart thinks to be correct. Dreams and imagination are meaningful to him.

The fourth stanza tells how the speaker’s hypersensitivity led people to have a wrong impression of him. When he watched the mystery of the heaven in cold winter night, when he was sad at the death of people and the old age of a fair lady, people called him mad. When he would be happy hearing the cuckoo’s song and uncomfortable by the dead silence, they would think that he had gone mad. They would punish him saying that he should be admitted to a mental hospital. Even his friends would not regard him as a normal person.

In the fifth stanza, the persona has upset the accepted values. He does not appreciate those things which the world praises highly. What the aristocrats drink is the blood of the poor people. Due to lack of affection, prostitutes are no better than dead bodies. Because of high ambition, the king and the emperor are no better than the poor. The common men are far better than the highly learned me. The best place in the world is the worse place for the speaker. So the world calls him mentally deranged. In the sixth stanza, the speaker revolts against the society which is being led by blind leaders. He thinks that penances have run away from the society and they hate humanity. He rather sympathizes the weak people.

Finally, the speaker behaves like a rebel. He criticizes the flatterers because they have deprived people of their rights and they have underlined the false actions. The poor people accept their falsity as good action, and then the speaker gets so angry because he thinks these man-haters must be punished. The persona in this poem attacks all the ugliness and wants to bring a complete change in the society.

The poet has used the contrast between the world of the sane man and that of the lunatic. The lunatic perceives what the sane man can’t. For example, the mad man visualizes sound, hear the visible, tastes fragrance, but the normal man hears sound, visualizes the visible, smells fragrance and tastes the delicious food. The lunatic can touch the thing which an ordinary person can’t likewise; he can see a flower in the stone and can talk with the bird. He feels that a heavenly beauty is smiling to him. Similarly, the mad man uses his sixth sense whereas the normal person uses only five senses. The worldly people use brains, but he uses heart. By using the contrast the poet brings out the irony of the poem. The poet wants to say that the worldly people are cold and cruel and they look at the world from their own convention. Although insane, the speaker is sympathetic and his hearing melts when he sees pathetic sights.

The phrase “the iconoclast of ugliness” in the poem refers to the world led by the blind people. The shameless leaders are breaking the backbones of human rights. They are persuading people to accept what is unacceptable. They don’t treat human beings as man. They are cruel and inhuman. The speaker in the poem can’t tolerate this kind of ugliness. So he wants to break it. He wants to upset the conventional values which have helped the dictators to exploit the common people. In this sense the speaker is the iconoclast of ugliness.

A persona is an invented person in this poem. He or she may not be the author himself or herself. To express the inner feelings or emotions of that persona, the poet has taken the persona of a lunatic in this poem. This poem has an autobiographical element. Observing the unusual behavior of the poet many people in the society called him a mad man. This poem is a response to the people’s comment.

The lunatic persona thinks that people cram their brains with worldly facts and figures and clams themselves to be knowledgeable person. They value materialistic thing such as wine, prostitutes, power, but they never appreciate the humanity shining brightly in every insignificant heart. They value the transitory things and disregard the really valuable things. That is why they are bigger fools. The stupidity makes the speaker arrogant.

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