I am going to be discussing the main theme and features of the poem ‘Old Man, Old Man’ written by U.A. Fanthorpe.
The main theme of this poem is the relationship between and elderly man and his daughter. The relationship is exploited through memories that are brought up throughout the poem. The Old Man used to be a person who “did-it-himself” and didn’t like to accept help from other people. However the father has become unable to deal with what life throws at him by himself and resents help from his daughter, who seems to be quite glad of his weaker state. I believe this to be because she had always wanted to help her father but he would refuse it and now she can make a difference and help him. The old man has a stereotypical view of women.
This is shown during the poem as he doesn’t accept help from a woman although it is clear he needs it, he seems to think that a man, or in this case a son is far more able to do things than a daughter, he thinks his daughter is incompetent. “Not good with daughters” (line 12) supports the idea that he would have preferred to have had a son, whether it is because he would find it easier to socialise with or believes they would have more things in common it is not evident, this also tells us that she must be the daughter of this old man hence why she knows so much about him. The old man makes no effort at all to try and socialise with his daughter or respect her. The father is very stubborn and feels ashamed and embarrassed to have had to be helped by his daughter, he feels that he has stooped to a lower level as he can no longer deal with everything himself.
This is a solemn story mainly because of the father believing he has to be an island. He was independent and never worked on the relationship with his family. As the poem progresses it reveals a depressing tone. The words in italics represent the voice of the old man and the daughter. This helps us understand how U.A. Fanthorpe must have felt. She says to her father “I can see you” and he replied “only as a cloud.” The poem portrays a negative image of the old man, he is a man who “frets” and “rambles” but later on in the poem he has no “power to arouse” and he rambles in his talk. This tells us that old age can be emotionally haunting or that you become an anxious figure just like the old man in this poem. It can also be a distraction from what is important such as your children, “And you wouldn’t know” tells us that he has been so distracted from things other than his daughter that he would know longer know much about her.
In stanza 3 and 4 there is a more praising tone towards the old man showing his achievements in coping with life, “connoisseur of nuts and bolts” before it shows a more dissatisfied tone from stanzas 5 to 8. As the old man gets older he displays more of his emotions. In stanzas 9 and 10 the poem approaches a more subtle and personal tone as the poet reveals the relationship between her and her father. Throughout the poem ‘old man, old man’ the themes of growing old can change the way people feel and think about you. The love expressed for the man’s daughter is fading away but the daughter still battles away to try and be accepted and be allowed to love him. In stanza 10 there is a repetition of “let”. This is used when she is trying to be let in to love her father and help him. “Let me find your hammer. Let me walk with you to Drurry Lane”
U.A. Fanthorpe uses italics to use show us when her father is speaking. The line “lord once of shed, garage and garden” the word “once” makes it obvious that he is no longer in charge or has control. “I’ve lost my hammer” is used, this could be interoperated as physically he has lost his hammer or he is too old to still use his hammer, which means he can no longer work at his age. It is very sad how the old man has last his power to be the man he used to be, an independent being, which we are led to believe that is an also empty life to live. We see this through Fanthorpe comparing the past and the present times.
However she loves his helplessness, whether it is through revenge of mistreating her or more likely because she wants to be able to help him it is uncertain. We see how strong U A Fanthorpe is as a person as she is still willing to help her father after he has ignored her or shut her out. The poem combines a mixture of loneliness, love and bitterness, the last couple of verses expresses a complex emotion of love but it is then ended bitterly and in sorrow by saying “only as a cloud”. The poet uses good descriptive imagery to make us feel old after reading it, she also uses good use of quotations to drill the images in our head like the use of “medicine” and “I see you only as a cloud” shows us he is old and doesn’t have as good eye sight as he did in his youth. The poem creates a sorrowful and bitter atmosphere too.