The artist’s dedication to work is at once a compromise on many aspects of quotidian life. In order to be able to produce works of art that contain insight, intelligence and an aesthetic sense, it is necessary to remain at a distance to the world that is being captured in the art work. This distance gives the artist the requisite vantage position from which he can gain fresh perspectives on life, society and institutions. In order to gain this advantage, the artist sacrifices casual involvement with the society and its trappings which are the objects of her study. Depictions such as “Four gray walls, and four gray towers” suggest the degree of monotony that the artist must go through. The creative process that produces a brilliant work of art (the woven tapestry in the case of Lady of Shalott) also includes the artist’s rigid focus and discipline. The imagery of the “four gray walls and four gray towers” bring out aspects of the monotony and the hermit-like focus that is a pre-requisite for artistic accomplishment.
The structural aspects of The Lady of Shalot hold a resemblance to oral folklore poetry, the latter usually built on themes of the heroic struggle. Embracing the projection of the heroic as in Homer’s Odysseus and the early medieval work Boewulf, Tennyson succeeds in highlighting the virtues and fortitude of Lady of Shalott, despite her eventual decline. The technical features of the poem such as its meter and rhythm help in bringing out this essense. Another stand out aspect of the poem is it’s musical quality. A notable difference is that while conventional folk songs will have an upbeat tone about a pleasant experience, The Lady of Shalott has a melancholy tone with a tragic end.
Another literary device employed by Tennyson in depicting the inner conflict of the artist is the thematic arrangement of the four stanzas. The first half of the poem represent the passive side to a artist’s life – one where she as managed to resist worldly temptations and remain true to her art. In the second half, this grip is loosened, hastening a quick succession of events that would lead to her demise. Appropriately, this half of the poem is markedly more lively and the imagery is more vivid: “A bow-shot from her bower-eaves,/He rode between the barley-sheaves,/The sun came dazzling thro’ the leaves,/And flamed upon the brazen greaves/Of bold Sir Lancelot.”Equally important in the transition from the static, quiet ambience to the whirlwind unfolding of events in the second half is the tense employed by Tennyson. The lack of control of the Lady of Shalott over her own destiny (upon invoking the curse) and the maddening rush of unfortunate events leading up to her death is best illustrated by the repetitive usage of ‘she’ in the third part of the poem: “She left the web, she left the loom,/She made three paces thro’ the room,/She saw the water-lily bloom,/She saw the helmet and the plume,/She look’d down to Camelot.”