I am learning vocabulary and need to know the meaning of abject and abjection, as well as how to use it. I referred to Merriam Webster. They use this quotation as an example:

I protest … this vile abjection of youth to age!

I still can not understand it, so I read the source, which is Man and Superman by Bernard Shaw in 1903.

TANNER [working himself up into a sociological rage] Is that any reason why you are not to call your soul your own? Oh, I protest against this vile abjection of youth to age! Look at fashionable society as you know it. What does it pretend to be? An exquisite dance of nymphs. What is it? A horrible procession of wretched girls, each in the claws of a cynical, cunning, avaricious, disillusioned, ignorantly experienced, foul-minded old woman whom she calls mother, and whose duty it is to corrupt her mind and sell her to the highest bidder. Why do these unhappy slaves marry anybody, however old and vile, sooner than not marry at all? Because marriage is their only means of escape from these decrepit fiends who hide their selfish ambitions, their jealous hatreds of the young rivals who have supplanted them, under the mask of maternal duty and family affection. Such things are abominable: the voice of nature proclaims for the daughter a father’s care and for the son a mother’s. The law for father and son and mother and daughter is not the law of love: it is the law of revolution, of emancipation, of final supersession of the old and worn-out by the young and capable. I tell you, the first duty of manhood and womanhood is a Declaration of Independence: the man who pleads his father’s authority is no man: the woman who pleads her mother’s authority is unfit to bear citizens to a free people.

I've read it, but still cannot understand what abjection in this context means. Can someone please help me?

1 Answer 1


Often when someone finds a new word, they need to look up not only that word, but also others. Then you'll understand not just one word, but several.

Abjection: a low or downcast state: each confession brought her into an attitude of abasement - H.L. Menchken. See: abasement, degradation, humiliation, decadence, decadency, degeneracy, degeneration, depth (usually plural): a low moral state: he had sunk to the depths of addiction.

The quoted passage bemoans the abasement of youth by older persons, how the young are brought down low by jealous elders.

  • Thanks but what is that youth TO age ? what does that "to age" mean ? Oct 20, 2014 at 9:29
  • He is saying youths are made humble by older people (age). To here can be understood to mean by. It means "in a particular relationship with." TFD Oct 20, 2014 at 9:46
  • Can I understand this "to" is a part of "protest ... to somebody/some authority"?
    – gpanda
    Jan 31, 2016 at 4:31

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