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Ben Johnson
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Benjamin Johnson

Examine the ways the Writers Present Loss of Love and Position in ‘Refugee Blues’ and ‘The Hunchback in the Park’

The theme of loss is prominent in ‘The Merchant of Venice’, ‘Refugee Blues’ and ‘The hunchback in the park’. In each of these, there are characters that are discriminated against because they are different in some form: the hunchback is different because of his deformity; Shylock and the German Jews are different because of their religion. They have each lost something, be it their respect, identity, religion or status. This exploratory essay will analyse the techniques the writers use to create the sense of loss and how they present it.

Auden and Shakespeare use repetition in their work. Shakespeare uses it in an anaphoric form to convey a sense of intensity, ‘Hath not a Jew eyes? Hath not a Jew hands?’, whereas Auden uses normal repetition to create a sense of urgency for the Jews’ situation, ‘Looking for you and me [;] […] looking for you and me.’ It is similar to a reprise in a song.

In Thomas’s poem, the hunchback is juxtaposed with ‘nurses and swans’. This is effective because nurses symbolise health and swans symbolise beauty: what the hunchback does not have. In ‘Refugee Blues’, the writer creates a dichotomy between ‘holes’ and ‘mansions’. This shows us how different the Jews’ situation is compared to people who are not Jews.

The writers make their poem or play sound harsher. Words such as ‘bait’, ’lock’ and ‘cup’ are used in ‘The hunchback in the Park’ and ‘The Merchant of Venice’ because they end with a consonant sound. The harshness of the poem and book mirrors the world in which the oppressed characters live. The hunchback and Shylock are not referred to by their name. Instead they are labelled ‘hunchback’ and ‘Jew’. This tells us that Shylock and the hunchback have lost their identity. The hunchback is regarded as so worthless that we never even learn his name.

Furthermore, the persecuted characters in the poems and the book are trapped in some way. They have some degree of freedom but it is limited. Shylock is segregated from society in a ghetto, the German Jews cannot leave Germany, and the hunchback cannot leave the park until night arrives. The refugees are compared to fish because they appear to be free, but their freedom is actually circumscript because they could be captured at any time. In ‘The Hunchback in the Park’, Thomas uses words such as ‘locks’ and ‘chains’ because they have connotations with imprisonment and confinement. The hunchback has, for nourishment, bread and water: what a prisoner would receive.

Pathos is used to evoke sympathy from the reader. After years of abuse and being treated as a second-class citizen, Shylock loses his daughter, his dignity, half of his wealth, and he is forced to give up his religion by the end of the play, ‘He [shall] presently become a Christian’. The hunchback is mocked by children. This is very upsetting because children are often viewed as innocent. Thomas using children as the antagonists insinuates that he thought there was evil in everybody, even the most virtuous of people. The reader feels anger towards the children because they have developed an emotional attachment for the central character. The hunchback is ‘propped between trees and water’, which implies that he is merely a part of the park rather than a human being. Auden’s ‘Refugee Blues’ laments the plight of the Jews who were forced to flee Europe when the Nazi party ordered their demise. It is in the structure of a blues song, hence the name. This is significant because blues songs were first sung by slaves in America. The refugees, like slaves, have lost hope as the Nazis are closing in on them. Additionally, the writer uses the phrase ‘my dear’ to create an image of a Jew clinging onto somebody they love. This makes the poem more emotional. Hitler over Europe is described as ‘thunder’. The use of pathetic fallacy increases the drama of the poem.

Moreover, the oppressed characters are compared to animals to tell the reader about their status. Shylock is called a ‘cut-throat dog’. Auden talks about how looked after animals are and makes it clear that the animals ‘weren’t German Jews’. The willow groves in the hunchback’s park are described as a ‘wild zoo’. This metaphor suggests that the hunchback is like a trapped animal.

The ‘losses heaped upon losses, as Shylock said to Tubal, are overwhelming. Metaphors, contrasts and pathos are just a few of the techniques used by the writers to create the sense of loss. The discriminated characters each have something in common: they are in their situation because the government has not cared for them sufficiently and has cast them aside. Perhaps the writers were attempting to show us how societies are failing.
Benjamin Johnson

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