• Dijana D. Tica University of Banja Luka Faculty of Philology English Department



male, female, Victorian, conflict, religion


Based on folk tales of Northern European nations, Arnold’s poems ‘The Forsaken Merman’ (1849) and ‘The Neckan’ (1853), both tell a story of human women who marry sea creatures, mermen, and replace their home on the land with the mermen’s underwater world. By crossing the boundaries between their worlds, they cause numerous problems, most significantly the tension resulting from their different religious beliefs. In ‘The Forsaken Merman’, Margaret, the merman’s wife, fearing that her soul will be damned because of her marriage to a pagan, decides to rejoin the human world on the most important Christian holiday, Easter. In ‘The Neckan’, in order to comfort his wife, the Neckan goes to the human world to find a priest who would be willing to baptise him, but he is rejected because he is a ‘monster’ who cannot be saved.

The paper will examine the way in which Arnold’s poems reflect the fears of the Victorian era as well as his own anxieties. This will be accomplished by comparing the two opposite worlds of the poems – the human world of everyday activities, rules, laws, and expectations; and the mermen’s home, the mysterious, colourful, and peaceful world of sea-beasts. In addition, the paper will analyse the reversal of traditional gender roles and re-examine literary, cultural, and social stereotypes. The paper will also attempt to find a connection between the main topics of these poems and Arnold’s life and career of a poet and literary critic.


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How to Cite

Tica, D. D. (2023). MATTHEW ARNOLD’S ‘THE FORSAKEN MERMAN’ AND ‘THE NECKAN’AS REFLECTIONS OF VICTORIAN FEARS . PHILOLOGIST – Journal of Language, Literature, and Cultural Studies, 14(27), 83–101.