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Analysis of Poems. Half Past Two

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    ‘Half Past Two’ is a poem in which Fanthorpe describes how a young child is given a detention for an unspecified misdemeanor and is forgotten by his teacher. Fanthorpe draws on her experience as a teacher to describe the scene as seen through the child’s eyes. The Title of the poem tells me a lot of information even before I read the poem. The information it puts across is that: A boy is told to stay behind until ‘Half Past Two’ but this has no-meaning to him because he has no concept of ‘time’.

    The boy can’t tell the time but yet he divides the day up into familiar, recognizable units, as in ‘schooltime’, ‘lunchtime’, ‘hometime’. : “Half Past Two” uses a lot of different tones, tones such as: Nostalgic, Innocent, Dream Like! Stanza One: In this stanza Fanthorpe includes the first of his markers of the day which the boy recognizes as a time in the day. This is set out as a ‘compound word’: ‘Schooltime’.

    Fanthorpe uses capital letters at the beginning of the words “Something Very Wrong”, he does this to show us how significant and important the incident was to the teacher, Whereas the words “(I forgot what it was)” and the use of parenthesis (brackets) show that it wasn’t all that important to the boy. Stanza Two: Again in this stanza, Fanthorpe uses the use of capital letters to give the teacher a God- Like status “She” in the boys eyes. Also the use of repetition, of ‘Something Very Wrong’ shows the ‘serious’ nature of his wrongdoing.

    In this stanza the words ‘Half Past Two’ shall come across to us for the first time (except for the title). These words are used to tell the boy, what time he has to stay in the school- room till. Stanza Three: Human nature; She’s cross, He’s scared…… Result? …. He is abandoned! Note the use of again of a capital for “Time” to show the importance of this mysterious entity. Stanza Four: In this stanza the boy describes his version and understanding of a ‘clock’, the boy tells the time of day by dividing the day up into recognizable units that he understands these are written as ‘compound words’ in the poem e. . ‘Gettinguptime’. I acknowledged the use of enjambment to lead us into Stanza five. Stanza Five: In my mind I think this stanza tells us a lot about the poems contexts. Here the boy shows that he can recognize that significant, repeated events occur at the same time each day. ‘But not Half Past Two’ reinforces the fact that he cannot tell the time, although he is familiar with the clock face. Stanza Six: The boy uses the language employed by adults teaching the time to small children. “He couldn’t click its Language”.

    This one quote tells us that the boy does not understand the clock and the time on the clock, he does not know how to read off the clock, it is like it speaks a different language to you and what the boy speaks. In this stanza there is use of ambiguity in the word “Click”, this has two meanings here, one of them is the understanding of the clock and the other meaning is the sound the clock makes as it moves round and points towards the time, so we are able to read off the clock face accurately with the use of the hands. The boy recognizes the ‘hands’ as “Two legs for walking” presenting to us that he knows what a clock face looks like.

    Stanza Seven: In this stanza the boy is not confined by time or restricted by deadlines. He is able to escape through sublimation into physical sensations, which are explained in stanza eight. Stanza Eight: Fanthorpe uses the technique of imagery by using words like “Smell, Touch, Sound” to create a visual impression of how the boy escapes into a myste Analysis: Do Not Go Gentle Into The Good Night. (Dylan Thomas) In ‘Do Not Go Gentle’ Dylan Thomas addresses the helpless state to which old people are rendered to, and encourages them to not give in quietly to death nd fight against its approach. In the first stanza Thomas says what he expects people who are close to death should do. He urges them to live life to its full extent even if they know that it is at an end. The next four stanzas go on to describe the kind of people who do not give in to death easily. It starts with wise men who, even though they know that death would, in the end conquer all, they still don’t cave in quietly as they know that things that they’ve said have not made any difference to the world. They need to make people see the truth of their words.

    This desire to be known, heard, and understood means that they are likely to fight death, perhaps because they feel there is yet more to do. Next comes the example of good men, who remained pious and righteous throughout their lives realize, on the nearing of death, that their good deeds are weak and could have been so much more, so they fight against death with a will to live on. Brave, adventurous men who did not know how short life is, and spent it all on wild expeditions, realize that soon life would be at an end, and so they fight to live on.

    Even old men who are on the brink of death view the world with a twinkle in their eyes, eager to see as much as they can before giving in to the darkness. The last stanza takes on an intensely personal tone as the poet directly addresses his father. This is a separate stanza which shows that he does not see his father as part of any of the afore mentioned categories, but rather he is a whole different category in himself. He implores his father, who is nearing old age and death, to curse at him only so that he can see the passionate man he once used to be.

    He pleads him to not give in to death, to fight against it with every breath in his body. The poem is in the form of a villanelle, six stanzas with a simple rhyming scheme that belies the complex message behind the poem. This message is made clear with a number of literary techniques, the most evident of which is repetition. The lines ‘do not go gentle’ and ‘rage rage against the dying of the light’ are repeated throughout the poem at the end of every stanza. These lines make use of an extended metaphor comparing death to the darkness of nightfall, and life to the bright day. Also a paradox is used in ‘good ight’ where Thomas calls the uncertainty and inevitability of death, represented by nightfall, as good. Also the good deeds of the righteous men are personified as ‘dancing in the green bay’, which signifies life; as is the sun personified ‘as sun in flight. ’ These used os personification also invoke a deep imagery which makes the reader imagine the sunset and the approach of nightfall, making the message behind the metaphor clear. Punning on ‘grave men’ Thomas uses a metaphor to again compare the brightness of their eyes to blazing meteors, showing the intensity of their will power to live on.

    Thus does Thomas, with the use of simple words, evoke strong emotions in the reader through this poem. A bold defiance is shown towards death, and he encourages those who are faced with it to share his passion for life. He pleads them to fight against its approach, even though he is well aware that in the end everyone has to cave in. No matter how worthless this fight against such an inevitable thing as death may seem one cannot help but commend the ferocity and fierceness of the poet, who has such a will to live on.

    It is an extremely encouraging poem, despite the fact that it repeatedly emphasizes the approach of death, as it simultaneously defies what it itself proves; that death is the conqueror of all. It ignites in one an intense passion for life and living, and no matter what problems one is facing in life, they seem insignificant when one thinks of the fact that it will all soon end and death will take over. People, especially the youth of today, have become so weak willed that the slightest difficulty in life bends them towards thoughts of death and suicide.

    They see in death, not an ending, but an easy way out. Thomas shows in this poem, not just asking for death, but even waiting for it to overcome one quietly is according to him, dishonorable and unjust. People should have an active will to live on, no matter their circumstances or age, as surrendering is cowardly and weak. The full extent of enjoying this poem lies in understanding and appreciating the message that Thomas conveys through the use of simple yet strong words.

    Once Upon A Time highlights the guilt and resentment an African man feels for himself to accepting the culture of the westerners. He notices a marked change in the attitudes of his people—those whom were once so genuine, warm and sincere have now suddenly turned cold and hostile towards him. He realizes that the early values, which always existed in the African society (like sincerity, good-natured ness, simplicity, wholeheartedness, hospitality, friendliness, originality, identity, uniqueness and overall satisfaction), have now faced a drastic, dramatic change.

    Post-colonized Africa has accumulated a group of people who have completely lost their feeling of community and belongingness and turned into a nation that views its people with hostility, unfriendliness, and suspicion. Their once simple and informal way of behaviour has become artificial and forced, lacking genuine warmth and hospitality. The African man finds himself being gradually affected by this culture. He finds himself behaving in the same way as those around him. He begins to lose his African identity and follow the western way of living.

    He feels a great sense of guilt and self-loathing and thinks about how fake he has become losing his identity and donning different, fixed expression for different occasions, an unnatural smile plastered across his face. He resentfully admits that he, too, makes hollow greetings and started behaving in the same way that people behaved with him. He confesses to his son that he does not like the person he has become and wants to change, and go back to the way he was before, in his childhood.

    He beseeches his son, the only person he knows who has not been affected by the new culture, to teach him how to be enthusiastic and happy and live life again. He asks his son to help him go back to who he was, and get back his lost identity. He expresses a desire to unlearn whatever he has forced himself to learn, in order for him to gain his sense of self back. He asks his son to help him be happy once again and acquire the childlike innocence he once possessed as a child. Structure of the Poem=Slow Paced The poem moves in a slow pace.

    The poem uses repetition and quotations to maintain a sense of deliberateness through out the poem. Personal monologue explaining personal experiences = The entire poem has the man talking to his son. There are no other voices in the poem, and the son remains mute throughout the entire poem. The man explains to his son about the change that has taken place in African society and asks him to help him changing himself. First Person Narrative = The poem is in first person narrative and the poet uses the word ‘I’ to depict an autobiographical narration of the man.

    Lots of Punctuation and Rythming = Begins on a negative tone and ends with a positive one The man is constantly complaining and lamenting on the change he sees in his culture as well as himself. But in the end of the poem, we still see that the man still sees the ‘ray of light’ in his son, who has not been affected by this negative change and asks him to help him unlearn what he has learnt and regain his child-like innocence once again Themes Childhood- The child in the poem is a symbol of innocence, purity, enthusiasm, happiness and genuineness lacking in society.

    The child represents the group of people who have not been affected or ‘spoilt’ by Western Culture and abode by there own culture. The poet, struck by a sense of self-loathing and regret, turns to his son in his time of need and asks him to help him unlearn whatever he has learnt and help him regain his child-like innocence. Innocence- Innocence is a fading aspect in the man’s society. People always appear deceitful and cunning. The child, however, is a picture of innocence and acts without any malice or ulterior motive.

    The man wishes to gain this innocence from his son, though he fails to realize that innocence is not learnt, but a state of mind. Once it is lost, it is gone forever. Racism- The western culture, language, and way of life made a huge impact on the people of Africa. According to them, African culture and religion were inferior to their own, and thus tried to change them, all the while thinking they were doing them a favour instead of disrupting their original way of life. This self-proclaimed superiority left the British colonizers feeling that they were better than everybody was, and all the other cultures were lower to their own.

    Regret- The man is forced to adapt to the society he is living in and becomes fake, formal, and everything he despises. He feels a deep sense of regret and self loathing, and when he looks into the mirror, he sees his ‘teeth like snake’s bared fangs’ , indicating that he is frightened of himself and all that he has become. This forces him to confide these worries to his son, and asks for his assistance in bringing about a positive change in him. Negative Change -Gabriel Okara shows very well in the poem how, when people change, and adapt, it is not always positive.

    The once enthusiastic and friendly society of Africa now treated its own people like strangers and looked at each other with suspicion and hostility. Every man and women was influence but the formal and impersonal western culture and therefore changed their own culture and behaviour in sync with the west. Being ‘fake’- An indication of being fake and insincere is spread throughout the poem. Lines like ‘but now they only laugh with their teeth’, ‘ice-block-cold eyes’, ‘now they shake hands without hearts’ indicate the insincere attitude of the people.

    The empty, meaningless, hollow greeting that are said only as a formality, the many ‘faces’ the man puts on according to the occasion are other indicators of this fact. Hollow Greetings- Greetings and pleasantries make up a vital part of communication in western culture. When the Africans adopted their style of greeting, they were merely words, with no meaning. These simple mutterings replaced the African’s original way of greeting, which contained more genuineness and affection. . Analysis of the title

    The title of the poem, ‘Once Upon A Time’, has special relevance to the beginning of every fairy tale, like Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, Rapunzel, and others. It was probably chosen by Okara, as the man in the poem expresses his desire to go, ‘back in time’, and regain his child-like innocence. Reference to ‘I’ in the poem The reference to ‘I’ in the poem has been interpreted by me, as a man speaking to his young son. However, in no point in the poem is it mentioned that the speaker is male, which you very well mean that the ‘I’, is a reference to Gabriel Okara herself, talking to her son.

    However, due to the lines ‘Once upon a time, when I was like you’, have made me conclude, that it is a man who is speaking. The Poem ‘Once Upon A Time’ Tells of Conversation Between Father and Son. ‘Once Upon a Time’, was written by Gabriel Okara, who is a Nigerian poet. He often explains what happens when a traditional African culture meets the forces of the Western way of life. I think the poem was written to outline the fake personalities of many people and to try and get them to return to a natural and innocent state.

    The poem tells of the conversation between what seems to be a father and son, where the father wants to learn from his son how to go back to normality and no longer be fake. The poem ‘Once Upon A Time’ starts by the father telling his son how the people, or ‘they’, ‘used to laugh with their hearts’. I think that the word ‘they’ refers to western people who are white. Also this description in the poem gives the impression of genuine emotion given off by the people. He then moves on to say that now they only, ‘laugh with their teeth, while their ice-block cold eyes search behind his shadow’.

    This gives off very negative, fake and false feelings and it is a very cold description. This affects the tone of the poem that now becomes sinister and bitter. Stanza two of the Gabriel Okara poem then reveals more of the past when it is said that, ‘they used to shake hands with their hearts’, again this image reveals true and genuine emotion. But just as in the first Stanza the present reality is then discussed when it is said that, ‘that has gone, now they only shake hands without hearts while their left hands search his empty pockets’.

    This shows that, again the people are fake and seem to be using the man to see what they can get. ‘Once Upon A Time’ Poem, Stanza Four, Presents the Adaptations and Solutions. Stanza three of poem ‘Once Upon A Time’ then goes to explain more about the changes he has noticed in these false people. Again the Stanza starts positive with the phrases, ‘feel at home’, ‘come again’, but then goes on to say that he will come again, ‘once, twice’ but there will ‘be no more thrice’ for then ‘I find doors shut on me’.

    This shows that the people lie when they say the positive phrases and after a few visits they have all that they want from the man; their falseness is reflected in the language they use. The first three Stanzas of the poem ‘Once Upon A Time’ have the same structure. They start by telling the past and explaining how things used to be, but then they tell the negative reality. I think this is used to compare the times and introduce the reader to the situation. Stanza four presents the adaptations and solutions that the man has found to counter the problems.

    It starts by saying that the man has, ‘learned many things’, already suggesting that he has changed to fit in. He then explains the things he has learnt. He tells of the false personalities or of his ‘many faces’. He tells that he has learnt to ‘wear’ these faces, suggesting that he wears faces for different situations. For example, he says he has an, ‘office-face, street-face, and host-face, proving that he acts differently under different circumstances. He then adds that they have, ‘conforming smiles, like a fixed portrait’. This suggests even more falseness and changes.

    Poem Stanza Five: Learned to Laugh With Only His Teeth. Stanza five of the poem tells of the fake attributes to go along with the fake looks. It also repeats some of the acts that were mentioned earlier in the poem. Repetition seems to be a key technique in this poem. He says that he has also, ‘learned to laugh with only his teeth’ and ‘shakes hands without his heart’. This suggests that he has copied the western ways as this is what they did earlier in the poem. He then goes even further by saying he has learned to say, ‘Goodbye’ when he means, ‘Good-riddance’ and ‘Glad to meet you, without being glad’.

    I think that the man is ashamed of himself and is confessing to his son how far the fake attitudes have developed, he seems to hate what he has done. Stanza six and seven then show the man showing his regret as he says, “I want to be what I used to be when I was like you”, showing that he wants to be honest and truthful again. My Laugh in the Mirror Shows Only My Teeth, Like a Snake’s Bare Fangs’. He then calls his new personality muting which suggests he thinks they are boring and have no expression. It is as though he can no longer find his own voice to express what he really thinks and feels.

    He then says he wants to, ‘relearn how to laugh, for my laugh in the mirror shows only my teeth, like a snake’s bare fangs’. This gives off negative feelings as a snake is seen to be poisonous and not to be trusted; a symbol of deceitfulness and treachery from the bible. I think this is a very good description as it really makes the reader realise that the man loathes himself. The final Stanza, number seven, shows the man asking his son, ‘how to laugh. Show me how I used to laugh and smile, once upon a time, when I was like you’. This shows the man’s true regret and he realises his fakeness and problems.

    An ironic and hopeful ending as he wants to learn from his son how to be what he used to be. Two Poems Compared Many Similarities and Differences. Overall I think that Gabriel Okara expresses her views very well with this poem as she shows how, when things change, people adapt, and it is not always positive. She also deals with things such as regret and self-respect. The poems ‘Coleridge Jackson’ and ‘Once Upon a Time’ have many similarities and differences. For example both of the poem’s main focuses are racism, but the theme is expressed differently.

    In Coleridge Jackson, the man receives direct verbal racism and discrimination when he is called ‘Sambo’ and a ‘sorry nigger’ whereas the main character in ‘Once Upon a Time’ is subject to racist treatment and personalities in a less direct way. Another similarity between the two poems is that the two main characters are black males. Also each poem shows how each man reacts to his racist abuse. In ‘Coleridge Jackson’ the effect is that he turns violent and lets frustration out on his family who become the victims in the so called cycle of violence.

    In ‘Once Upon a Time’ the man’s reaction is that he regrets that he followed and copied racist and false attitudes of the western people, and in this case, the man’s family is a form of hope where he turns to his son for help. Poems, ‘Once Upon a Time’ and ‘Coleridge Jackson’, Both Slow Paced Poems. Also both of the poems show how black people have been treated in western society, by racist individuals. The structure of the poems are very similar as they are both slow paced, with lots of punctuation and no rhyming. This s a technique used to slow down the poem and make the reader think about what is being said. The two main differences in the structure of the two poems is that firstly ‘Coleridge Jackson’ is written in a third party style whereas the style in ‘Once Upon a Time’ is first person.

    Secondly, ‘Coleridge Jackson’ is a narrative story telling style whilst, ‘Once Upon a Time’ is a personal monologue explaining personal experiences. Both of the poems use similes and metaphors to describe the character attributes. The endings of the two poems are very different. Coleridge Jackson’ has a very negative, depressing, and hopeless ending, as we see the cycle of violence is not going to end. The ending of, ‘Once Upon a Time’ is full of hope and positive feelings as the man decides he is going to do something about the problem and asks his son for help. Overall I think that both poems express their views on racism very well, but I prefer ‘Coleridge Jackson’ as it uses shock tactics, direct speech, and a narrative style to explore a theme which is just as relevant in today’s society.

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    Analysis of Poems. Half Past Two. (2016, Nov 13). Retrieved from

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