Personality Types Viewed by Auden in Last Collection

published in the February 1, 1945 issue of the Phoenix

W. H. Auden of the English department spoke at the last Collection of the semester as the choice of the graduating senior class. Scorning the usual type of speech to graduates, the British poet centered his talk, entitled "The World of Flesh and the Devil," around a description of three types of men, all of whom are found in varying proportions in everyone, and to whom he gave the names of James, John, and George.

Success Leads to Ulcers

The first is the college-student voted most likely to succeed, who makes a material success of himself through diligent work and a careful marriage to a wife whom he never really loves. He is the worshipper of society who gives to the correct charities, and conforms to all its conventions, but dies after a long illness, of ulcers perhaps, without ever having really lived or loved.

John, the second of the trio, idolizes his own feelings. In college he is the brilliant, witty rebel in whom the faculty see great possibilities if he would only settle down to one interest. Women seek to reform him, but he loves for the joy he derives from the feeling of loving, and thus is incapable of real love. After a life of heavy drinking, he dies at last, a suicide or perhaps a convicted murderer.

George is the man who idolizes only freedom; who answers his mother's explanation that what he sees as he travels through the country is a cow, with the question, "Why?" He refuses to conform for the love of not conforming; it is the Georges of the world who are its saints. Mr. Auden expressed a hope that colleges will produce more of such men.

Don't Wash

In his final remarks, Mr. Auden gave his only words of direct advice. He encouraged students to doubt what they were told, and said that professors help out by refusing to help at all. They love their field of study as a prince loves the fairy princess; their function in college is to show students what this love is even though they may not be able to cause the same devotion to arise in them. Random admonitions which he offered were, "Distrust unpunctual men and punctual women," "Never forget you're a heel," "Read the New Yorker," "Don't wash too much," "Distrust tidy men and untidy women," "Trust in God and take short views." Mr. Auden compared life to a chess game, and warned that if one gets more pleasure out of saying "Check" to his unseen omniscient opponent, rather than hearing the word himself, "life is going to be a rather sticky business."


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