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EngIish Literature Poems Essay - 22/4/05
In this essay I intend to compare how strong emotions are portrayed in the poem 'On
my first sonne' and 3 other poems. Strong emotions are conveyed in various ways in
Carol Ann Duffys 'Havisham' and 'Stealing', Ben Johnson's 'On my first Sonne' and
Robert Brownings 'The Laboratory'.
Firstly, all 4 poems show a strong emotion of bitterness which comes from the
protagonists. Ìn 'Havisham, the woman who speaks is hitter through disgust of her
deceptive lover who abandons their marriage. Ìn 'Stealing', the speaker is bitter
towards the more fortunate folk, Ìn 'On my first Sonne' the father is bitter about son
escaping the troubles in life, and in 'The Laboratory' the woman is bitter about her ex
lover and his girl friend. These emotions are conveyed differently in the poem, Ìn
'Havisham', 'Duffy has used an oxymoron; 'Beloved, sweetheart, bastard!', whereas
in 'The Laboratory' 'Browning has used alliteration to show her bitter tension towards
her vistims; 'Moisten, and mash up'. Ìn 'On my first Sonne', 'Johnson makes use of
sibilance to emphasize the slippery disgust of his voice; 'so soone scap'd worlds'. Ìn
'Stealing' Duffy makes use of a short sentence that followed a longer sentence. This
is a usual clease used by parents towards children when they are angry; 'Lifes
tough'. This was done to show his decisive resentfulness of other people.
Ìn 'Havisham', the oxymoron is effective because it sets to atmosphere of anger right
at the beginning. We straight away get an imp ression of a twisted confused and
anxious woman who can't think straight. The alliteration combined with the
oxymoron; 'beloved, ..bastard' further emphasizes the bitterness because of how
suttle and aggressive they are pronounced. This therefore shows a s imilarity with the
techniques used in 'The Laboratory', as alliteration is used here for the same reason.
However, as it isn't combined with an oxymoron, it isn't as effective but does
emphasize the aggressive actions ('mash' and 'moisten') that show how t ense she is
to kill her victim. The sibilance in 'On my first Sonne' isn't that effective because it is
too smooth and effortless to bring out the snappy envy in the man. However, it does
increase the pace which helps create tension to represent the enviou s feelings. Ìn
'Stealing; Ì think that the short sentence at the end is good because it can say so
much about the character ÷ it is ambiguous as well as snappy. The quote could refer
to the speakers life as well as his victims, which tells us why he made s uch as
heartless and resentful statement.
Ìn the poems, there is also some distress shown. This is most evident in 'Havisham'
and 'On my first Sonne', where they have clearly lost someone that they loved, which
makes them grieve. Ìn 'stealing' the speaker is distressed because they are bored ÷
they are a 'have-not' unemployed scum that can't rebuild a snowman. Ìn 'The
Laboratory', the woman is distressed as she grieves over the loss of her ex.
The way these emotions are portrayed are quite varied for each p oem. Ìn 'Havisham',
her distressful state is conveyed through lots of disturbing activities. The most
particular is her 'cawing Noooo at the wall'. On the contrary, in 'On my first Sonne'
the fathers distress is displayed through rhetorical questions and s tatements of
uselessness.; 'Will man lament the state he should envie?' and 'O, could loose all
father now' respectively. Ìn 'The Laboratory', objabement is used to link the two idea
of the beliefs of the couple and the reality of the situation together; ' they believe
My tears flow'.
Ìn 'Stealing; the speakers distress is portrayed through their frustrated and pointless
actions, that show their 'bordom'. The latter is most effective in showing their isolated
empty state by being in a sentence on its own and at the beginning of the stanza.
This shows how isolated and empty the life of the speaker is hence their distress. On
the contrary, both 'Havisham' and 'On my first Sonne' are affective in the same way
of using onomatopoeia; The 'O' part at the sta rt of line 5 in 'On my first Sonne' and
'Nooooo' in 'Havisham'. They are both examples of how we behave when something
Charlie Macgilchrist 11C
really bad has happened to use, and therefore gets that distressed impression
across. Ì think that 'Havisham' is more effective in this a rea because it says she is
'cawing' the sound. This gives us the impression that Havisham has been broken
down into a small vulnerable animal, which is effective because Ì shows how she has
lost all her humanity and sanity. Ìn 'The Laboratory' through, Ì t hink that her
distressful emotions are portrayed quite effectively because the line 'my tears flow' is
a short phrase isolated on its own. This gets across to the reader the emphasize of
the woman being on her own and because the word 'flow' rhymes with th e word
'know' in a rhyming couplet, in enforces a smooth moving pace when it is read which
would be interpreted as her tears actually flowing from her eyes from her face.
A difference between the emotions in the poems is the common opposites;
'Havisham' and 'On my first Sonne' show the emotion of love in the protagonists; in
'Stealing' the speaker hates the 'haves' (richer, fortunate people and in 'The
Laboratory' the woman hate the ex. and his girlfriend. There is also a significant
amount of jealousy in these 2 poems too.
Ìn 'Havisham', her love is stated on its own at the end of stanza 3. This links with the
beginning of stanza 4;
hate behind a white veil.'
This was done to link the two ideas that she still has some tenderness for him, but is
ambiguous; the objambment suggests her love is hate or that hate belongs to love. Ìn
'On my first Sonne his love is expressed right at the beginning with both repetition
and a rhyming couplet;
..thee lov'd boy,'
The repetition was used to really o ppress the fathers love for him, and the rhyming
couplet to concentrate this idea by linking the emphasis on these emotions together.
Ìt is also presented in a sonnet, which is a typical format for many love poems hence
immediately tells us it is about lov e.
On the contrary, there is no love in the other two poems and the opposite is
displayed in 'Stealing' with again the same technique used in 'On my first Sonne' to
show the emotion of love; repetition:
'.and booted him. Again. Again.'
This was used to show how jealous the speaker is of the more fortunate folk who
made the snowman. Ìt shows that they aren't backing off from showing their hate
towards life. The 'snowman' could also be considered a symbol of a happy family
relationship that the speaker has 'booted' to destroy because he/she is jealous of
them. Ìn 'The Laboratory', Browning makes use of metaphors like 'Let death be felt'
and alliteration 'Brand, burn up 'bite' to emphasize very vigorous hate towards the
intended victim. This conveys how much she wants her victim to be ruined. Ì think
that this is the most effective at conveying her hate because these ideas are also
tightly linked with a rhyming couplet;
'..remain'. these show how endured she wants the suffering to be, hence how
spiteful the woman is.
'Stealing' also uses the poem format to portray the Protagonists State of emotion.
Duffy uses free verse to show how topsy -turvy and confused the speaker is, but in
my opinion it has no effect on the reader but makes the poem harder to read since
the pace has no constancy.
By Charlie Macgilchrist
St. Benedicts School Derby
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