J. J. Anderson
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The last shall be first
in Language and imagination in the Gawain-poems
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Pearl is a religious dream-vision in which the dream is largely taken up by dialogue between the narrator or dreamer, as a figure in his dream, and a woman who is a fount of divine wisdom. It does not engage significantly with the fourteenth century. Its interest lies rather in relating Christian doctrine to universal life-experience, and particularly in the problem that some of the basic tenets of that doctrine fly in the face of basic human instincts and attitudes. The narrative of Pearl is multi-layered, with the poet creating a dreamer-figure separate from himself whose attitudes differ significantly before, in, and after his dream. If the dreamer is to be taken as a representative figure for all humanity then the poem demonstrates that the ways of God can never be justified to men, for the distance between God and man is too great to be bridged.

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