A man who has just lost the love of his life and is trying to cope with his grief.
Brueghel ("Musée des Beaux Arts")
The famous Northern Renaissance painter whose work depicting the fall of Icarus is discussed to illustrate the reality of suffering.
Icarus ("Musée des Beaux Arts")
The young boy in Greek myth who flew too close to the sun and then fell to earth when his wings melted.
The Unknown Citizen ("The Unknown Citizen")
A man whose life is well-known to the State, the unknown citizen held the proper opinions, had a good job, had the right amount of children, and bought the things he should. His internal state is not known, however.
W.B. Yeats ("In Memory of W.B. Yeats")
The famous poet whom Auden memorializes in this poem. Yeats' poetry is depicted as particularly able to conjure emotion.
Sigmund Freud ("In Memory of Sigmund Freud")
The famous psychologist and intellectual whose probing into his patients' psyches and his myriad of writings on a variety of subjects made him a profoundly significant figure in the late 19th and 20th centuries.
Young man in "The Average"
A young man whose parents toiled in the land for him to have a better life and a better job, but who is cowed by the pressure placed upon him to be exceptional when he is merely average.
Speaker in "Lullaby"
A man (probably the poet) who reflects on the nature of love while his lover rests in his arm. He knows love to be fleeting but desires it regardless.
Dietrich Bonhoeffer ("Friday's Child")
The German Lutheran pastor and political activist whose work against the Nazis led to his death by their hands.
Hephaestos ("The Shield of Achilles")
Hephaestus, the Greek god who fashions a shield for Achilles depicting the realities of war with a 20th-century emphasis.
Thetis ("The Shield of Achilles")
Achilles' mother. who watches Hephaestos make the shield, and is dismayed when the scenes are not bucolic and pleasant.
Lover in "As I Walked Out One Evening"
The lover sings of the enduring and inspiring qualities of love; he is unrealistic, and the clocks in the poem focus on the realities of time.
Gabriel ("For the Time Being")
The Angel who tells Mary she will carry the Christ child, and who tells Joseph he must not be angry at Mary for being pregnant.
Mary ("For the Time Being")
The mother of Jesus, she has the freedom to choose whether or not she wants to carry him, and does so. She also laments his crucifixion.
Joseph ("For the Time Being")
Mary's husband, who initially is skeptical of her carrying the child.
The Three Wise Men ("For the Time Being")
The three wise men contemplate the arrival of Christ and discuss how their intellectual approach to the existence of man failed.
The Shepherds ("For the Time Being")
The shepherds discuss how Christ will make their miserable lives better.
Simeon ("For the Time Being")
Simeon discusses how the Fall and the Incarnation had to occur precisely when they did.
Herod ("For the Time Being")
A liberal humanist, Herod deplores Christ's arrival, as it ends the hegemony of reason and rationality as he prefers.
W. H. Auden: Poems Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for W. H. Auden: Poems is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.