The themes and ideas in Auden's _The Age of Anxiety_ reflect his belief that man's quest for self actualization is in vain.
I. Auden's background
A. As a 1930's poet
1. Views of Society
2. Diagnosis of the industrial society
B. Major conflicts of his works
II. _The Age of Anxiety_ overview
A. As a quest poem
1. Characters' search for self-actualization
2. Characters' inevitable failure in the quest
B. Characters' views on the general situation
1. Their belief to be in Purgatory when they are allegorically in Hell
2. Their disbelief in impossibility
III. _The Age of Anxiety_ character analysis
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The fourth age
a. Presents circus imagery "as a form of art too close to life to have any purgative effect on the audience"
b. Rosetta's definition of life and the world
5. The fifth age
a. Conveys the image of man as "an astonished victor"
b. Man believes he has made peace with the meaning of life
c. Anxiety declines as "He [man] learns to speak / Softer and slower, not to seem so eager"
d. Man is no longer confined to a prison of prismatic color, but is free in the dull, bland place that is the world
e. Emble's opposition of the fifth age
(1) Refuses to go willingly into middle age
(2) Demands to know why man must "Leave out the worst / Pang of youth"
(3) Is disturbed by time unlike the others for he is still young enough to have a future
f. Quant's domination of the fifth age
(1) Attempt to eliminate all hope
(2) View on man's adaptation to the fifth age
6. The sixth age
a. Man begins to show age
b. "Impotent, aged, and successful," Malin's portrayal of a man of this age is indifferent to the world
7. The seventh age
a. Hypothetical man is tired out
b. Malin is ready for this age in contrast to the others' reluctance to die just yet
VI. Second act of Part II, "The Seven Stages"
A. Unlike "The Seven Ages," this act is nothing more than a dream
B. "The Seven Stages" is an attempt to find the perfect time of life
C. The stages
1. The first stage
a. Each character begins alone, "isolated with his own thoughts"
b. Justification of the view that the quest is for naught
2. The second stage
a. Is initiated by the first pairing of characters
(1) Shows possibility of hope
(2) Shows futility of hope
3. The third stage
a. Begins as the couples turn inland
(1) Emble and Rosetta by plane
(2) Quant and Malin by train
b. The characters complete the third stage without success in their search for self
4. The fourth stage
a. Malin speaks for them all in his derogatorative statements about the city
b. Malin passes judgment on its citizens based on the urban surroundings
5. The fifth stage
a. Rosetta visits a mansion in which she wishes she were raised and to which she wishes she shall return
b. While Rosetta is within the house, the others examine its exterior and its comparison to the human body
c. Rosetta finds life inside the house no better than before
6. The sixth stage
a. A "forgotten graveyard" is the setting
b. Symbolizes "The results of life"
7. The seventh stage
a. The characters wander deep into a forest, each taking a solitary path
b. They meet at the edge of the forest with a desert before them
c. As they realize that life has no meaning, the desert becomes the real world, thus ending this stage with their awakening
VII. The remaining...