The magnitude of Lady of Shalott’s sacrifice comes to light when we compare the description of the atmosphere inside her fortress and that outside it. While the conditions inside the safety of the fortress are one of drab dullness and sameness, the world outside it full of vibrant color and life, with decks of daffodils and lilies gracing the river banks: “The yellow-leaved waterlily/ The green-sheathed daffodilly/ Tremble in the water chilly” The river banks, in turn, escort the gushing river to its far away destiny with the sea. But the personal sacrifice that this endeavor entails proves insurmountable ultimately. The constant state of seclusion from ordinary social activities heightens the sense of alienation from oneself due to the artist’s tendency to deal in abstractions and ideas. Tennyson’s employment of the imagery of fortresses and towers stand for the lofty ambition of an artist. Likewise, the ever flowing river and the ever-reflecting mirror are symbols of the artist’s isolation and distance from the world from which she draws material for her art.
Finally, the assertion that Tennyson was pitching for the heroic struggle of the artist can be deduced from his own personal experiences. A poet with an introverted personal disposition, Tennyson was known to have had reservations about having a normal social life. He feared that this would hamper his creative process. In the case of the Lady of Shalott, being the contemplative artist she is, she is forced to live a compromised intimate life. As a consequence, she laments, “I am half-sick of shadows…shadows of the world”.