Compare the ways poets present ideas about identity in ‘Checking Out Me History’ and ‘The Emigree’.
Both poets make it clear that cultural transmission and the way that we construct our identities starts off at a very early age. This is created throughout the use of anecdotes and references to children and nursery rhymes (etcetera). In ‘The Emigree’, Carol Rumens opens her poem with the phrase ‘There once was a country…’ which is similar to how many fairy tales begin, connoting the familiar innocence of childhood. It could also show how our thought processes are crafted as we grow up because we are fed the morals of tales such as these, and how our culture is something people nurture, it isn’t nature. The ellipsis then signifies continuity and how we continue to adapt to different cultures through what we are told. Carol Rumens pursues this idea further with the metaphor of a ‘hollow doll’; similar to John Locke’s theory of the blank piece of paper, she presents a child as a ‘hollow doll’ waiting to be filled with information. A ‘doll’ is also a possession that we instinctively link to children; the two images fit together and so the readers mind wanders back to this image of childhood (as intended by Rumens). In ‘Checking Out Me History’ however, John Agard provides a more hidden reference to childhood in the repeated phrase ‘Dem tell me’, which can be linked to his school years and how he would have been told about a culture that wasn’t his own by ‘Dem’, the teachers. Here it comes across than John Agard felt (and still feels) disconnected from his own identity, because it was almost as if the teachers ‘tell me’ but they do not listen. Furthermore, the dialect used by John Agard appears infantile and undeveloped, subtly suggesting that he feels the link to his identity was lost as a child.
Both poems also imply that the histories they have been taught are fictions or may be fictions. We see this made clear to us in the different ways the writers have structured their poems. For example, in ‘The Emigree’ the structure is well ordered, with each stanza containing the same number of lines up until the last, when Rumens adds an extra line. ‘But my shadow falls as evidence of sunlight’ suggests that what the people who ‘mutter death’ say is a lie (that we can infer is well fabricated due to the organisation of the first three stanzas) that the narrator is attempting to break free of. Also, the poet has made sure that this idea is well-hidden, suggesting that the narrator is trapped or shrouded in lies. Contrastingly, John Agard openly states that he does not agree with what he is being told, and it is blatantly obvious as he opens his poem with the statement ‘bandage up me eye with me own history’ so that he can create a feeling of exploration throughout the rest of the poem. Moreover, he repetitively uses the pronoun ‘dem’, which distances him from something that is a truth, but not necessarily his own truth and identity.
Each writer then makes it clear that they feel alienated and cut off from their respective cultural identities. This is reinforced through the emotive imagery and defiant tone used by both Carol Rumens nearing the end of her poem, and John Agard throughout his. Carol Rumens describes how ‘they accuse me’ to enforce the feeling of loneliness, which suggests that the narrator is isolated from their true cultural identity, and the verb ‘accuse’ proposing that they feel they are being discriminated against because of who they are and where they come from. This creates a slightly melancholy tone at the start and in the middle of the poem. However, towards the end of ‘The Emigree’ Carol Rumens takes on a slightly happier, non-compliant tone as her ‘shadow falls as evidence of sunlight’ to ensure that she keeps her identity, and to let the reader know that she will not give up on the ‘sunlight’ (which signifies hope). Comparatively John Agard remains intransigent that throughout ‘Checking out Me History’ the facts he is given are not his facts, and there are slightly irritated undertones as he explains to the reader how the majority of his education was based on white history. This compels the reader to think about the lack of diversity within the education system, and creates a sympathy for John Agard as it is evident that he feels detached from his own identity and culture.
In ‘Checking Out Me History’ a use of non-standard English and structure presents the poet’s alternate view of history and identity, while in ‘The Emigree’ repetitions and extended metaphors help to reinforce the narrator’s struggle to adapt to a different cultural identity. Agard uses non-standard English to idealise his culture, showing that he will continue to rebel against what ‘Dem tell me’ if they will not also listen – he is defiantly ‘carving out me own identity’, in order to have the final say by completely disregarding standard English and celebrating his own culture. Differently in ‘The Emigree’ Carol Rumens uses the extended metaphor and motif of ‘sunlight’ to imply that although she may have to conform to the opinions of others, she will always try to protect her memory of the happy country from her childhood, and that there is always some spark of hope.
Compare the ways the poets present ideas about conflict in ‘Storm on the Island’ and one other poem.
Both Seamus Heaney and Wilfred Owen use extended metaphor and pathetic fallacy to create similar perceptions of conflict. In ‘Storm on the Island’, Heaney uses the metaphor of the waves ‘exploding comfortably down on the rocks’, which takes the verb ‘exploding’ from the semantic field of violence (connoting conflict) and juxtaposes it with the adverb ‘comfortably’, indicating that the rock-face has been attacked previously, and that the weather is a relentless opponent. This also suggests that conflict is continuous and unabating, determined to follow a path of destruction. Furthermore, the way Seamus Heaney describes the weather here and throughout the poem points to the idea that in every conflict there is a clear winner; for example, the weather is clearly stronger than its insignificant opponent – mankind – as it ‘pummels’ and ‘bombards’ them, and there is no way to fight back. Comparably, Wilfred Owen uses the extended metaphor of the cold weather attacking the soldiers in order to present conflict as something that is unrelenting and disheartening, and most notably describes ‘the merciless iced east winds that knife us’. ‘Merciless’ is an adjective that implies something malignant, implying that nobody really wishes for an end to conflict, and hints at the sickening idea that there is a killer within us all. Owen also uses an abundance of fricative sounds within this phrase, which creates a sense of claustrophobia and traps the reader within this idea of unyielding conflict. The use of fricatives could also suggest that conflict is all consuming; nothing can escape from it.
In the poem ‘Exposure’, Wilfred Owen uses a repetitive, organised structure to further enhance the idea that conflict is unrelenting, but also to suggest that all conflict is the same. He has ordered the stanzas so that each has five lines, the last line of each a repeated phrase somewhere along the lines of ‘but nothing happens’. The nature of this structure slowly lulls the reader into a melancholy state, and causes them to wonder why they are reading it. Owen renders his poem almost completely pointless, causing the reader to reflect on the idea that war is pointless; people die ‘but nothing happens’ - ‘Exposure’ is telling us that conflict is futile. Differently in ‘Storm on the Island’, Seamus Heaney uses blank-verse to suggest that a conflict could begin at any moment and is unpredictable. This asks the reader to think about the state of the world, and how precarious peace-time can be. Heaney could also have meant that the blank-verse represents panic and confusion, the kind caused by a conflict.
Seamus Heaney’s tone is very tense, and he appears to be on edge throughout the poem, which links back to the panic that is induced by the blank-verse he chose to use. His tone suggests that he is not so much scared of conflict itself but afraid of what it could do, hence his descriptions of the preparations made on the island. It is possible that his tone is a warning to the reader to ensure that they themselves know the repercussions of a conflict and do not encourage one. Comparatively in ‘Exposure’, Wilfred Owen maintains a melancholy monotone for the entirety of his poem, once again revisiting how ‘war lasts’ and how pointless it is. The narrator appears not to care that ‘nothing happens’ and accepts that he is dying, which is slightly unusual given that we know his feelings towards the circumstance of conflict, however, this could also be interpreted as exasperation towards the fact that ‘nothing happens’, and that nobody is trying to prevent conflict/death from happening.
Overall, both poets present conflict as something to be weary of and something that is an inherently senseless undertaking, suggesting to the reader it is something that the population needs to think about and more readily discuss the implications of before pursuing it.
Thank you again!
i believe these would get definitely get 8s or maybe even 9s. a 7 if the examiners a prick. I love your original and unqiue ideas, and youve analysed the language well. i didnt get bored reading it, which is also a plus. this is good, so good that im going to take notes off of it.
Out of curiosity, what did u get in yout mocks? for the paper 2 i got a low 7, which im trying to push up.
In the mocks I'm pretty sure I got a six for language and a six again in literature - It just really confuses me how to hit the grade boundaries though because every school is different, and literally all our teachers have us to go on was the government thing that said 'have a judicious use of quotations and be perceptive'.
I have some strong opinions against Michael Gove because of this XD