Coming Up for Air

Mutability of the Human Condition 12th Grade

The critical necessity for mutability as part of the human condition, and the risks associated with lack of comprehension of it are exhibited and scrutinized closely in George Orwell’s novel Coming Up For Air, his ante-penultimate novel, and Of Mutability, a series of poems by Jo Shapcott. Both Orwell and Shapcott explore the state of sustained transition in which human beings are eternally bound by discussing loss and mortality in numerous and varying approaches, and considering how people can frequently falter and sink into despair when they realize the inevitability of mutability.

In Shapcott’s titular poem Of Mutability, the writer describes how “Too many of the best cells in my body are itching, feeling jagged, turning raw”. In light of the cancer which the writer was struggling with at the time of writing, it seems that she has understood how easily and quickly things can change. One could argue that this shows how humans struggle to truly comprehend the vital nature of mutability without being faced with it directly. This is a point which is echoed in Orwell’s writing in Coming Up For Air where he describes how Bowling’s memories of his youth in Lower Binfield have become hazy and idealized, and when he returns to the...

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