The old man in Purgatory: The Indian part in Yeats's Vision of salvation

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This essay examines Yeats's Purgatory via A Vision, in an attempt to understand his view of salvation in particular relation to Indian philosophy. Read from a Christian perspective, Purgatory may be a work far from purgation, as T. S. Eliot once complained. I wish to show in this essay that Purgatory indeed places emphasis on purgation by a negative example, if in a different way from the Catholic one. Yeats denies the linear eschatology of Christian theology as well as its doctrine of salvation in eternal heaven. In A Vision, Yeats explains his view of the afterlife of the soul, which involves purgation through 'the Dreaming Back'. The special treatment of the Old Man renders Purgatory a meta-purgatorial play that mirrors the Dreaming Back of hismother's spirit in the Old Man's, intensifying the theme of purgation. Purgatory effectively dramatizes the inability to forgive and cast out remorse: the impossibility of nishikam karma, or selfless action, to borrow Sanskrit terms, which is essential for Yeatsian salvation. Finally, I would also emphasize Yeats's deviation from the Hindu wisdom, which makes Yeats's vision uniquely his own.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)251-268
Number of pages18
JournalComparative Critical Studies
Issue number2-3
Publication statusPublished - 2017 Oct 1

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
* This work was supported by the 2017 Yeungnam University Research Grant. 1 The Upanishads, Part 2, translated by Max Müller (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1884), p. 38.

Publisher Copyright:
© British Comparative Literature Association.

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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