English / Comparison Of &Quot;In Mrs Tilcher'S Class&Quot; And &Quot;Mid-Term Break&Quot;

Comparison Of &Quot;In Mrs Tilcher'S Class&Quot; And &Quot;Mid-Term Break&Quot;

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Autor:  anton  08 July 2011
Tags:  Comparison,  Tilchers
Words: 1964   |   Pages: 8
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Choose two poems from your reading on the theme of childhood. Compare and contrast the experiences described in each poem showing clearly why each poem affected you the way it did and with close reference to the poet’s use of language show how he/she conveys these feeling to you.

A person is affected by life occurrences differently as a child than as an adult. Childhood is a period of life every person experiences and therefore can relate to. In the selection of poems that I have studied the poet attempts to stir feelings and emotions of childhood in the reader.

The two poems that I have chosen to compare and contrast are “In Mrs Tilscher’s class” by Carol Ann Duffy and “Mid-term Break” by Seamus Heaney.

Carol Ann Duffy was born in Glasgow, 1955. She grew up in Scotland attending local catholic schools before going to Liverpool University to study Philosophy. She later worked as a free lance writer in London and Manchester. She decided to become a poet when she was fourteen and felt that was her vocation. She won all the major poetry prizes and awards. In 1995 she was presented with an OBE and in 2001 she was presented with a CBE. She also writes plays, radio plays, edits poetry and teaches creative writing.

Seamus Heaney was born in 1939 to a Catholic family and spent his childhood on the family farm in County Londonderry. He won a scholarship to St. Colomb’s College and then went to Queen’s University, Belfast. He lectured in Queens’ for 6 years. He began publishing poetry in 1966 and he wrote a lot in the years that followed. He became a Professor of poetry at the University of Oxford 1989-1994 and he was awarded the Noble Prize for literature in 1995. He now lives in Ireland.

“In Mrs Tilscher’s class” is about Duffy’s childhood experiences at primary school. It is autobiographical in the sense that Mrs Tilscher is a real person who taught Duffy when she was at Primary School. The theme of the poem describes the transition from childhood to adolescence and it reflects the lessons we learn at school from our teachers and peers.

Duffy uses sensory poetry – images which we feel, smell, taste and hear. She brings life to the classroom; we sense the excitement of the children as they sit captivated by Mrs Tilscher’s lesson.

�You could travel up the Blue Nile

With your finger, tracing the route

While Mrs Tilscher chanted the scenery’

Later we feel the change in the children.

�A tangible alarm made you always, untidy,

Hot fractious under the heavy, sexy sky.’

Duffy is effective in creating snapshot images so we really get a sense of the environment she creates, she picks up her own memories and also taps into the readers.

The language Duffy uses reflects the happy trusting relationship between teachers and students in early primary school years and then highlights the difficult transition through hormonal teenage years.

Figurative language is used to transcribe these experiences to the reader. The first two stanzas contain positive images.

�The laugh of a bell swung by a running child’

The bell is personified so that we get a clear sense of the children’s laughter and excitement.

Mrs Tilscher �chants’ the lesson adding a �sing-song’ feel to the poem which contributes with the �enthralling books’, classroom that �glowed like a sweet shop’, �sugar paper. Coloured shapes’ and �gold stars’

There is a sense of time passing in the second half of the poem. The seasons and the weather are changing �Over the Easter term’, �That feverish July.’

Duffy uses a punctuation metaphor, “the inky tadpoles changed from commas into exclamation marks”, to indicate the growth of tadpoles and then extends the metaphor. She compares the release of the frogs in the playground to the changes taking place in the growing children.

The language becomes uncomfortable filled with unrest. Duffy hints at the uncomfortable effects of hormones which make the children �feverish’, �untidy’, �hot’, �fractious.’ Duffy associates the oppressive feeling we have in humid weather with the physical change of puberty. The same children who were once captivated by Mrs Tilscher’s lessons are now impatient to be grown.

Mrs Tilscher’s love protects the children in the first half of the poem and makes the horrors of life fade away. However later in the poem when asked about sex she is unable to answer them because they are moving into new territory.

Duffy structures the poem in regular stanzas which help to add emphasis to the �Snap shots’ of childhood and adolescence that she presents. The poem is written in blank verse. There is no obvious rhyme scheme, but the change in stanza length (First two stanza have eight lines and the second two have seven lines) which reflects the change in the children.

The tone reveals a lot about the speaker’s attitude towards the subject, in this case the difference between the innocence and security of childhood and the troublesome years of adolescence. Duffy establishes the tone of the poem through her use of language and structure. The first two stanzas are positive and warm. In the second stanzas the tone becomes uncertain and ominous as growing sexuality causes confusion and irritability, �fractious under the heavy, sexy sky.’ The weather reflects the oppression as childhood innocence is lost.

The poem ends with an image supporting turbulent years to come �the sky split open into a thunderstorm’.

Similarly to �In Mrs Tilscher’s class’, �Mid-term break’ is also a childhood memory through the subject matter is completely different. The poem is also autobiographical as it is about a family tragedy and he describes reactions to grief.

The title suggests a holiday but this break does not happen for a pleasant reasons. The poem is about the death of Heaney’s younger brother, Christopher, and how people including himself reacted to his death.

The boredom of waiting to be picked up appears in the counting of bells but the word �knelling’ suggests a funeral bell. The modern reader maybe surprised that he was picked up by neighbours rather that family but when this poem was set in the 1950s not everyone had a car and often relied on neighbours to help. Also the parents were perhaps too upset to collect Heaney.

The theme of Heaney’s poem unlike Duffy’s is death and grief. Heaney describes the tragedy of his brother’s death and wake. There is grief, desperation, devastation and sorrow throughout the poem.

The first five stanzas reflect people’s unnatural reactions but by the end of the poem Heaney is able to grief honestly. The stanza begins in the morning (line 1) but it is 2 O’clock in the third line showing the hours have past in waiting.

The second stanza begins with the image of Heaney’s father, who is apparently always strong at other funerals is distraught by his own child’s death. This provokes a powerful emotion in the reader. Heaney skilfully takes the reader with him as he enters the house through the porch. We meet his father crying in the porch, “Big Jim Evans” a family friend make an unfortunate pun in the phase “a hard blow”. He means to speak of a metaphorical blow. Finally we meet Heaney’s mother �coughing out angry tearless sighs’ unable to grieve.

The young Heaney is made uneasy by the baby’s happiness on seeing him. Head shaking and invasions like “sorry for my trouble”, and whispers about him in the room made Heaney feel very uncomfortable and embarrassed.

In lines thirteen and fourteen Heaney’s use of assonance this time in his repetition in the short �a’ sounds i.e. at, ambulance, arrived, stanched and bandaged. Puts emphasize on the stopping of blood and life.

When the child’s body is returned late at night. Heaney sees it as a “corpse” not a person. This contrasts with the final section of the poem when he is alone with his brother. He uses personal pronouns like �him’, �his’, and �he’.

Unlike the tone and mood of “In Mrs Tilscher’s class” which starts of with happiness and security, then at the end becomes uncomfortable and tense. “Mid-term break” starts with a feeling of anxiety, grief, embarrassment, awkwardness and anger. Towards the end of the poem there is peace and reflection. It feels more personal.

In the sixth stanza we see that Heaney has been away at school and hasn’t seen his brother for six weeks. The words �paler now’ hang at the end of the line causing a sad pause before the reader continues to see how little the boy has changed in death the only difference being that he is paler and he has a poppy bruise.

“Snowdrops and candles sooth the bedside”. They literally sooth young Heaney. The flowers are a symbol in the poem, but also a reality for the family, a symbol of new life after death. The bruise is seen as not really part of the boy, he is wearing it as if it would come off. Heaney compares the bruise to a poppy, a flower linked with death and the soothing of pain as opiates come from poppies. The child appears as if in his cot sleeping and we contrast the ugly “corpse stanched and bandaged” which becomes a sleeping child with “no gaudy scars.” “The child is dead but not disfigured in death.

The last line stands out showing the shock and grief the family must have felt. There is an element of shock for a reader reading it for the first time and finding out the boy’s age; he was only four years old. It is worded very skilfully and leaves a dramatic effect; �A four foot box, a foot for every year.’ – The size of the coffin is a measure of the child’s life.

“The early purges” another poem written by Seamus Heaney that I have studied. Is about how we loose innocence as we get older and the tone and content is ambiguous and ironic. The poem recalls a particular incident; the first time Heaney as a boy witnessed the farmhand killing kittens and how he became accustomed to this in time. He now has a similar indifference to the death of animals and his tone is very cynical regarding this. Dan Taggart is an older person trying to deceive a younger person to protect him from his compassion. The oxymoron �glossy and dead’ shows that the young Heaney is not convinced by this.

“The Early Purges” is very similar to the two poems as it shows that childhood innocence is lost as we get older and that sometimes older people try to protect children from what they think they don’t know but really the children are aware of. “In Mrs Tilscher’s class” the love of the teacher protects the children and makes the horrors of life fade away but by the last to stanzas love is no longer enough the children are impatient to be grown. “Mid-term break” is similar to “The Early Purges” as the theme is about death and childhood reactions to death. In “Mid-term Break” the young Heaney is faced with a family tragedy. He has to act very grown up the first part of the poem but his real thought and feeling are expressed in the second part. “The Early Purges” suggests how the death of innocent animals is wrong but accepted. Like Heaney’s brother that died innocently in a car crash but life has to move on.

Overall the poem that I liked the best was “In Mrs Tilscher’s class” as the snap shots she creates really give the poem a sense of the primary school environment. It makes me reflect upon my time at primary school and �Mrs Tilscher’ reminds me of a teacher I had. The figurative language she uses transcribes the experiences to the reader and it makes you feel as if you where there as well. It evoked a personal response.

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