English Lit GCSE AQA Poetry Anthology Relationships cluster questionWatch
Compare how poets use language to present feelings in Sister Maude and one other poem from Relationships. (Brothers)
‘Brothers’ and ‘Sister Maude’ have a similar theme of a moment brought on by time, bringing a distance between two siblings. Both poems each use language to present feelings of the sibling towards the other one, Forster exploring the burden of a sibling and Rossetti the immense anger due to betrayal.
In the first stanza of both poems, a tone of bitterness is felt at once. The first line of ‘Brothers’ describes the older brother being “saddled” with the younger brother “for the afternoon”. The verb “saddled” connotates the feeling of a burden the older brother feels due to having the responsibility of looking after him, which he is not happy with. ‘Sister Maude’ also creates this feeling of annoyance towards a sibling by using repetition. Every line in the first stanza repeats the question of “who”. Repetition implies the exasperation felt by the sibling that her sister dared to spy on her, showing the feelings of anger towards her.
Furthermore, the antipathy both siblings feel is further emphasised differently. ‘Sister Maude’ uses alliterations of the hard C sound describing the dead lover with “clotted curls” and a “comeliest corpse”. The sound is built up in the throat of the reader then released, giving it harshness, echoing the explosivity of the outburst the sister is having. This effectively conveys the upmost anger felt by the sister due to her sibling. In ‘Brothers’, contrasting adjectives are used to describe the boy and his brother to present further resentment. The younger brother is described “windmilling home” while the older brother “strolled”. This contrasts the enthusiastic and immature younger brother to the seemingly more mature and superior older brother showing the separation between the two and the feeling of disregard of the younger brother.
However these feelings are stressed similarly in both poems using the pronoun “you”. ‘Brothers’ continually describes the brother as “you” without giving a name, emphasising the hatred. Sister Maude has a rhyme scheme of ABCB, adding even emphasis to the final word of each line, one of which, the last line in the third stanza, ends with “you”. This not only signifies it but like in ‘Brothers’, directs anger straight to the sibling showing the strong feelings they both have of their relationship with their sibling.
In conclusion, both poets use the last line to provide final feelings towards the siblings of the future. ‘Brothers’ states the feelings of the older brother “unable to close the distance (he’d) set in motion”. There is a double meaning of distance - a literal meaning of the brother running further away from him - and a metaphorical meaning on the future distance and impact that this situation had on their relationship. ‘Sister Maude’ ends with an evil tone of the wish the sister has of God to “bide (her) with death and sin”. This, along with a strong iambic meter, ends the poem with a deep negative feeling the sister has towards her sibling also providing the presence of a future separation that this situation has created.