As we were talking in class today, Dr. Gates said something that got me thinking: in “The Two Part Prelude,” nature is a constant guardian for the speaker in the poem; that nature (the parent) would outlive the mortal parents. I find the concept fascinating, especially when it is applied to Reginald in St. Leon.

Reginald had never known his father because the man had died before Reginald was born. He had his mother until he was about seventeen or eighteen, losing her to death. He then had his maternal uncle for a couple of years until the uncle died. Reginald also had a kind of relationship with the king (if I am remembering correctly), but the king was kept prisoner and Reginald is never able to rekindle that relationship. Without a guiding force, Reginald succumbs to his vice of gambling and righted only when taken under the wing of his wife’s father. He, of course, loses this guardian as well, and Marguerite stepped up in fulfill that role by marriage. After this, Reginald is at peace until he is once left without a guardian and wrecks his life. His wife takes the reins, Reginald finally rights himself, and they manage to build a peaceful life once again. That is, until the stranger appears who, like Marguerite’s father, assumes a parental authority over Reginald.

Like how Marguerite’s father saw Reginald’s gambling as a problem, the stranger is upset with how Reginald is living his life under the “thumb” of his wife. The stranger continues in the man’s footsteps by attempting to “fix” Reginald’s relationship with his wife (along with getting Reginald to take care and listen to him, but that is irrelevant to my point). Much like Reginald’s other guardians, the stranger is successful and dies as well.

Once I looked at the line of succession for Reginald’s guardians and thought nature as a guardian, I realized that Reginald once found comfort in nature when he had gotten himself and his family exiled from France. He was distant from his family and walked for long stretches of time in nature. Nature actually functions as the other guardians do and gets Reginald to clean up his act. If I remember correctly, Reginald pulls himself together in that section because of a natural disaster and realizes the error of his ways. I don’t recall Reginald taking comfort and being disciplined by nature again further in the novel, but I think nature shows up in another way: he follows in the footsteps of nature.

Much like how he did what his mother wanted him to, attempted to follow his father’s footsteps as a soldier, straightened himself as Marguerite’s father wanted, and did as the stranger wanted, Reginald became a constant much like nature and now watches humanity like nature does. He is separated from humanity, no longer mortal and instead is a circular immortal like nature (starting young, growing old, and starting young again like the seasons). Though Reginald did sort of follow the stranger’s example, Reginald attempts to help and better humanity which I see akin to how nature (despite how we don’t like ice, tornadoes, and such) grows and tries to provide what mortals need to survive. Reginald just does not do it as well.

(Just an FYI, I think I might want to run with this for my final paper so any comments are welcome.)

(Word count: 567)

2 thoughts on ““The Two Part Prelude” and St. Leon: Nature as a Guiding Force

  1. Interesting, Tara. I agree this could be the seed of a paper. The parallel of Reginald and Nature as cyclical is thought provoking. What do you make of the fact that Reginald’s immortality, unlike Nature’s, is “unnatural”?

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    1. I think the fact that Reginald’s immortality as “unnatural” actually explains why he is suffers. Unlike his other guardians, nature is not human and therefore does not feel excluded from humanity. Reginald, on the other hand, does and laments about it. This is a stark contrast to how he feels and how his life is when he is under the guidance of his other guardians. I would argue that he was under considerable less distress when he was listening to the stranger. He faces imprisonment and hardships during his immortal life that may be a bit similar to his mortal life, but are greater in comparison.

      Hmm. Thinking of it like that, I think I get the ending of the novel better. Maybe the point was that what Charles and his wife had worth living for was that they were not like nature and not immortal. And maybe Reginald’s wealth can be translated as a kind of force of nature (his “nature”)?

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