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Higher English ciritical poetry essay - constructive ciriticism and hepl please watch

    • Thread Starter

    I wrote an essay on a poem that I think I can match to a multitude of questions, so I want to get it just write. Here is one I did on how the theme of change is explored:

    Waiting Room

    A poem in which the poet explores the theme of change is 'Waiting Room' by Moira Andrew. The Poem tells the story of an old woman in a care home who struggles to come to terms with her old age. In this essay I will show how the writer effectively conveys the theme through imagery,...

    The poem begins with the line:
    "She waits neatly, bone-china thin"
    Right from the outset Andrew uses this metaphor to conjure up an image of this lady in the reader's mind. The connotations of something being 'bone-china thin' is not just that it is not thick, but delicate, fragile and easily breakable. This first line deals with the theme of physical change which is continued throughout the poem. In the next stanza, Andrew goes on to describe this woman's appearance further:
    "bearing the graffiti of old age"
    The use of the word 'bearing' in the metaphor suggests the carrying of a burden, that it is an unwanted hindrance. This idea continues when she describes it as 'graffiti', this implies that it tarnishes a previously unblemished object and that it is difficult to remove. This shows that she is not happy with her change in appearance. After this Andrew uses another metaphor:
    "veins / snaking across her hands / like unravelled knitting"
    Here Andrew is painting a clear picture of the woman's appearance. The description gives and idea of both the size and shape of her veins. The simile 'like unravelled knitting' is also appropriate as knitting is an activity often associated with the elderly. This is yet another piece of imagery which shows a change in physical appearance.

    Andrew also uses similar techniques to describe the weakness that has come to the woman with old age:
    "She drizzles sherry"
    The word choice here shows her lack of strength. It shows that she is not strong enough to carry out the simple activity of lifting a bottle sufficiently enough to pour it but instead manages to tilt it just enough for a small quantity of the sherry to flow out. Andrew maintains this theme:
    "fumbling / to light a cigarette'
    This is another simple task that she struggles to carry out. The reader is given an image of an old woman with shaking hands unable to perform a seemingly straight-forward task. Continuing this theme the poem goes on to say:
    "The stick a third leg"
    This metaphor shows the dependence this woman has on her walking stick - that she is so reliant on it, it has become as important as a limb. All of this amounts to give the reader a clear idea of how much the woman has weakened with old age.

    The third verse opens with a very long sentence with no pauses except from a single comma towards the end. The sentence comes to an abrupt halt and is followed by a contrastingly short sentence:
    "Names elude her:
    This sentence structure mirrors her mental state, one second she is thinking back to occurrences of the past and then suddenly a gap in her memory becomes apparent. Andrew then follows this with:
    "Tormented / she tries to trap them on her tongue"
    The significance of the word 'tormented' is shown as it is the first word of the sentence and it is separated by a comma and a new line from the rest of the sentence. The extremity of the word, carrying connotations of agony and torture, shows the amount of frustration and anguish this causes her. The alliteration of the harsh 't' sound backs up this feeling. Use of imagery in the metaphor 'she tries to trap them on her tongue' shows her lack of memory and how bitter she is that she suffers from such forgetfulness. The whole stanza has an underlying tone of pity for the woman, Andrew stirs sympathy from the reader by showing how resentful she is of her faltering memory and how much she wants to return to her previous mental state when she didn't suffer from such issues.

    A third change we see the woman go through is a change in lifestyle. Andrew uses personification, describing her room as 'claustrophobic with possessions'. This tells us that she has so many items they clutter up a whole room. Next Andrew backs up this point:
    "eight Homes and Gardens rooms"
    This explains the vast quantity of possessions, that they have been moved from eight large rooms into a single, far smaller one. This also shows the life of luxury she once led, living in a house with eight rooms that are nice enough to be included in 'Homes and Gardens' magazine suggests a lifestyle of wealth. After this, Andrew mentions some of the woman's possessions:
    "fine glasses... wide-brimmed wedding china"
    This too backs up the idea that the woman had a wealthy lifestyle. Finally Andrew demonstrates the woman's lack of independence:
    "waiting to obey the gong / (Saturday, boiled eggs for tea)"
    Here Andrew shows how institutionalised the woman's life has become. The word 'obey' implies that her actions are governed by the gong and she follows whatever is asked of her through it. The idea of a gong summoning the group of elderly people is also very impersonal, as is the fact that they have no choice in food, but eat the same things at the same time. All os this tells the reader the extent of her changes in lifestyle and her negative feelings are clearly evident from the tone of the poem.

    The idea of waiting is developed throughout the poem. Initially this is seen as a good thing:
    "She waits neatly"
    "She waits graciously"
    These give a sense of anticipation. However as we go further on, this idea changes:
    "she waits defiantly"
    Where the words 'neatly' and 'graciously' have positive conniptions, the word defiantly breaks this pattern. Now the waiting becomes less exciting and more tedious, waiting for something to interrupt the monotony rather than waiting for something interesting to take place. This idea of boredom is continued:
    "A man's face, / preoccupied by youth, looks on"
    Here a sense of loneliness in the poem is established. She is constantly waiting for something, anything to happen and when she does get a visitor they come across as passive, disinterested and not engaged. This creates a sympathetic tones for the woman which is built upon at the very end of the poem:
    "Waiting for the rain to stop / waiting for winter, waiting"
    Here we see the idea of waiting reach it's climax. The events she is waiting for start at short term, a change in weather. Then they become slightly longer term, a change in season. Finally, waiting for something even longer term which the reader can only assume is her inevitable death. This shows that Andrew uses the idea of waiting to show the woman's outlook on life has changed from optimistic to bleak.

    To conclude, Andrew effectively conveys the theme of change through various means including tone, imagery, sentence structure and word choice amongst many others. Andrew takes us through this woman's life, showing us how she had changed in appearance and physical strength as well as how her outlook on life, mental state and lifestyle have changed. Of the many changes she has experienced since her move to the home, it was the final once that struck me the most. Her change in outlook leaves the reader reflecting on the negatives that come with old age. This brings us back to the title. After reading the poem it is clear that the title 'Waiting Room' is a metaphor for death. The room, is the woman's room in the care home and she is waiting to reach the end of her life, living out her final days in a less than exciting way.

    Thanks in advance.

    You clearly know your poem inside out. But, you need to know how to answer the question, and not simply do a guided tour. Essentially, your essay is: quote + meaning + more meanings -> repeat -> repeat.

    You should try not to be repititive nor too predictable. You must structure your essay to, firstly, answer the question, and then to show your appreciation of the writer's craft. For example, what impact did the use of "quote" have on the question: what message is the writer trying to convey?

    At the moment, you're giving a guided tour, going from quotation-to-quotation and annotating them, and then going to on to say that "it deals with physical change" or that it "is yet another piece of imagery which shows a change in physical appearance."

    From reading your paragraphs, I see you do not have opening sentences/points/statements which answer the question.

    For example:

    question = Write about a poem in which feminist ideas are put forth. Go on to discuss how it affects your appreciation of the text.

    The feminist poet highlights women's pulchritude during the renaissance. Throughout the poem it is prevalent that women are, indeed, aesthetically appealing. As such, it is said that the "lady is a rose". It can be said that "rose" suggests beauty: thus, the lady is beautiful. Therefore, the poet believes that women, during the renaissance, were especially superior when it came to aesthetics.

    The first part asks for feminist ideas: I have answered this with my opening sentence, and backed it up with my following sentences on analysis (the argument); then I answered the second part of the question which asks for appreciation of the text: I said that women during the renaissance were especially superior, as that is what the author is trying to convey (that's the Personal Response).

    The above example was purely fictitious which I merely made up (there is no question on feminism, nor have I studied, and therefore written an essay, such a text). However, it does answer the question. Answering the question = minimum B, strong argument and personal response = A

    Good luck. If you need any help on English PM me: I'm also doing Higher this year.
    • Thread Starter

    Thanks a lot that was very useful! I was aware that my essay had a rather formulaic and repetitive structure but I was unsure of how else to get my points across.

    (Original post by James94)
    Thanks a lot that was very useful! I was aware that my essay had a rather formulaic and repetitive structure but I was unsure of how else to get my points across.
    I beg you to PM me with anything to do with English: admittedly, I love reading and writing essays.
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