How do the poets present the significance of adults in a child’s life in ‘Half Past Two’, ‘Piano’ and ‘my parents kept me from children who were rough’?
In all three poems the narrator is recollecting their past with a sense of regret. Even though the adult in the poem try to do what they thought was the best for the child but only managed to hamper the speaker’s feeling on his childhood in some way or the other. In the poem, “Piano”, written by D. H. Lawrence, the narrator is affected by a person playing a piano. A woman sings softly to him while he reminiscences about his childhood and his near perfect childhood owing to his mother.
The speaker in ‘Half Past Two’ shows how by being punished by his teacher he was allowed to escape into timelessness for a short period after which he is brought back into the “clock filled land”. Now that the speaker is an adult he yearns to be free and away from time constraints. In ‘My Parents Kept Me From Children Who Were Rough’ the speaker recalls his childhood and how he could not be a part of a group due to his parents restriction.
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The speaker rues his chances of being with the rough children who were always free and suggesting he is never going to be happy about his childhood. The speaker in Piano shows his nostalgic attitude towards his mother. The narrator reveals his nostalgia when in the second line itself he says “Taking me back down the vista of years, till I see”. The longing and nostalgia are apparent in the last three words show his desire and want to relive these moments with his mother.
Another instance when the narrator is nostalgic is when he says To the old Sunday evenings at home, with winter outside And hymns in the cosy parlour, the tinkling piano our guide” The image given to the reader by this quote is of a child and his mother cuddled up in their house with a fire and singing songs in a very relaxed mood. The diction choice used brings an image of calm and peaceful childhood. Due to the impression given by words such as ‘Hymns in the cosy parlour’ which illustrate the comfortable past the readers realize his want, to go back and experience those bittersweet moment once again.
On “old Sunday evenings” Sundays are usually off days and time to relax and DH Lawrence describing this moment implies to the reader the narrators longing of being free and with his mother on Sunday evenings. “The tinkling piano our guide” show the casual atmosphere and the how the narrator and his mother did not care about time or any other thing but just let the music. The narrator thus implies that he wants to go back this moment and is shown as being wistful. This also presents a conflict as the speaker likes his memories but dislikes his continuing nostalgia.
However it can also be said that due to his mother and his almost idyllic childhood he feels as if he cannot function like a normal adult. The diction and tone used in the poem reveals the narrators struggle. This feeling is presented to the reader when the speaker says “my manhood is cast down”. This reveals that the narrator believes that due to his upbringing he cannot live like a grown man, also the questioning of his masculinity shows that he has no self belief and he is in doubt as if he is scared to live like a normal person.
The diction used such as “cast down” especially the word down show that since the narrator became an adult his life has been going in a downward spiral as if everything negative is happening and he is not able to duplicate his joyful childhood into a joyful adulthood. Further revealing that due to his mother the speaker believes that his adulthood is ruined. The poem is very well structured as every stanza has four lines with the first two describing the present while the last two lines describing the narrator’s comfortable past. This is used to show that he is in a limbo/dilemma and that he cannot function like a normal adult.
Another occasion where the mother is shown as being too kind is when the speaker says “I weep like a child for the past”. The reader starts to think that the speaker’s childhood was like a fairytale and his mother’s upbringing has rebounded on him. The feeling of nostalgia is heightened by the simile “like a child” which shows that the mother was too caring and wonderful as the speaker an adult is crying in vainly to go back to his childhood. Leaving the narrator reminiscing his almost perfect childhood due to his gentle and loving mother.
In Half Past Two the narrator is again longing for his past as in the poem he experiences the rare feeling of timelessness and freedom ironically due to detention by his teacher. So on the one hand he almost likes his teacher for giving him punishment but on the other hand he resents her for “slotting him back into school time,” an image is created in the readers head through this action. But the word “slotted” shows the unwillingness of the narrator as slotted means to be pushed or dragged by revealing that he is rather reluctant to move from one time period to another.
It is as if the teacher pulled him from one zone and instantly put him into another. As this is the first time in his life that he is no time neither school nor home time and he escapes from the daily school routine but only to brought back to reality by his teacher. Immediately after which he gets back to “home time” therefore showing the restriction and limitations of time in the narrator’s childhood due to the presence of adults in his life as immediately returning from school the narrator is put into “teatime”. The narrator is shown to almost dislike his parents for teaching him time.
This is when the author says ‘But he never forgot how once by not knowing time” the tone in this line is pensive and regretful almost as if asking his parents why they taught him time. This line also shows that he does not like the time constraints imposed by his parents such as “Gettinguptime, Timeyouwereofftime,” as an adult now having to live with the restraints of time. The compound words show that he is still a child but is being treated like an adult this is comprehended due to the time adherences that the narrator has to follow.
The above lines show that the narrator believes that his parents were too limiting and imposing and did not give him enough free time or were always close to him taking from one time and putting him to another constantly during his childhood. Both poems ” Half Past Two” and ” piano” show the longing of the narrator to go back to their past to relive incidents in “piano” it is reliving his childhood with his mother and in “Half Past Two” it is experiencing the exceptional feeling of timelessness once again. Therefore the speaker as an adult almost seems to desire to go back into the past and leave the adult world.
The moment of timelessness is so rare and fleeting that he thinks it as being other worldly. This can be assumed because the narrator refers to himself as “He” instead of I. Implying that the experience was something different and it was as if the speaker was not present but in place there was someone else. This is further emphasized in the first line itself when Fanthorpe says “once upon a school time”. The “once upon a” shows the readers that the narrator thought of it as a fairytale or a story from a book instead of reality.
The speaker shows his yearning to go back into timelessness as he remembers this specific period of time but he cannot remember for what he was punished by his teacher. When he says “He did something Very Wrong/ (I forget what it was). ” This shows his longing as he explicitly remembers the feeling and experience of timelessness. This is enforced by the fact that the narrator could not remember the reason he was punished for by his teacher but that even as being a small child he can remember a small block of time which he once experienced.
In ‘My parents kept me from children who were rough’ it is revealed that how restrictive his parents are as they do not allow him for joining a group of free and wild children leaving him feeling regretful.. This poem is similar to “half past two” as in both poems the parents are very restrictive and imposing which directly affects the narrator’s feelings when he becomes an adult. The first line itself shows his restrictions when it is said “my parents kept me “. The word kept is used to make it sound as if his parents have forced him and he is doing so unwillingly.
The narrator tries to tell the reader that even though the wild children bully him but still he desperately wants to become a part of their group as he likes the idea of being free and doing whatever they want to. This is seen when the narrator says “They ran in the street/ And climbed cliffs and stripped by the country streams. ” The fact that these children “stripped and ran in streets” shows that they have freedom something that the narrator lacks turn highlighting all the various activities that the narrator is not able to do due to his parents choices and decisions.
The desire is so great that he is willing to ignore their insults and the bullying just to be a part of that group. This is shown in the last line “I longed to forgive them, yet they never smiled. ” This shows that he is willing to take the insults as long as they included the narrator into the “gang”. This affects the narrator in his adulthood as he rues his opportunity of being free and unrestricted but his let down by his parent’s decision.
The word “longed” in this line shows that the narrator is looking back to this time feeling hurt that they never accepted or apologized to him in turn leaving him with the feeling of sorrow and grief and instead of giving him some freedom his parent’s forced him into doing what they was right for their child. But at the end of the poem the reader can question due to his parent’s restrictive nature the narrator will suffer for his entire life. Furthermore due to his parent’s decision he shows how the wild children then bully him showing the readers that his parents have hit him a double blow.
The wild children bully him such as “And their jerking hands and their knees tight on my arms. ” This shows that he is getting the worse end of the deal as not only does he have to control himself from mingling with these children due to the restrictions imposed by his parents but also he has to face their bullying and taunts. Another example of the wild children picking on him was when he innocently says “they copied my lisp” thus revealing that he has to take their insults and taunts due to his parents decision of not letting the narrator be friends with the wild children.
Thus in this case it may not be too harsh to say that the adults are shown to have ruined the narrator’s childhood and how much ever he tries it will always be a longing and not a reality. It can be said that that the narrator is dealt a double blow due to the fact that not only does the decision of not allowing the narrator to mingle with the wild children make him sad and regretful but also due to this he is constantly picked at and made fun of.
This is further backed when Spender says “I feared the salt coarse pointing of these boys”. This is a synaesthetic metaphor as not only is he being pointed at and made rude gestures on but it also makes the reader feel rough as being bullied by these children makes him think and believe that he has been dealt a slap. The speaker is left ruing his childhood and this poem shows the very negative impact that his parents have on the speaker. Lastly all three poems illustrate the negative effects that adults play in a child’s life.
In piano it can be argued that the parent is not at fault but it can also be said that due to her parenting skills her child is left in a mess as he is always been spoon fed and cannot function like a normal adult. In ‘Half Past Two’ the parent has made their child miserable because of their habit of enforcing time on their child and not allowing him any free time but rather keeping him restricted and very much time bound. In ‘My Parents Kept Me From Children Who Were Rough’ the parents are imposing and restrictive quite similarly to the ones in ‘Half Past Two’.
Their enforcing nature nearly ruins the childhood as his dream of joining a group of wild children only remains a dream and in turn these children bully the narrator. The parents in ‘Half Past Two’ and My Parents Kept Me From Children Who Were Rough’ are very contrasting to the mother in Piano as she is very caring and loving and seems to take particular care of her son while in the other two poems the parents are rather strict. Thus it can be concluded that the adults in the poems have hampered their child’s adulthood in some way or the other.